Erica Wheeler: inspiring connections between people and place

May 2015/ How to Find a Sense of Place, No Matter Where You Are

May 2015 How to Find a Sense of Place No Matter Where You Are
This weekend, I'm driving to Ontario where I am the keynote for their parks staff training. I am so looking forward to the journey. I'm planning to stop at Fort Stanwix on the way through upstate NY, which will be a great place to learn about the history of the region. I'm staying at an Inn on the St. Lawrence River. I've never been to the region, and can't wait to go. Then I'll travel along the river, until heading up north to the lakes were the event is being held. I love that I have the time to drive, and see the land unfold, and really arrive, knowing where I am.

Over the past few years I've learned a lot about how the great rivers shaped the places we see today. I am reminded of this powerful passage from a great book I came across this while doing research for programs with the Upper Mississippi National Fish and Wildlife Refuge:

"The land was so wild it was essentially impassable; anyone who didn't go by the river didn't go at all. In effect, the river served as its own map. A voyageur who needed to consult it had only to climb the nearest hill. There the route was unfolded, in all its blue-misted splendor: the great dragon tail of the river uncoiling through forested valleys and across the tallgrass prairies and into the vast shrouded swamps, glittering with ten thousand sunflecks, blurred by drifts of drizzle, blazing with reflected herds of brilliant cumulus, on and on toward the horizon. As far as the eye could see, the river was the only road." Lee Sandlin, "Wicked River: The Mississippi When It Last Ran Wild."

How to Find a Sense of Place, No Matter Where You Are
This was a recent talk title. I included these three tips:

1. See the Layers: Why does this town look like this? What are the layers of time and history here? Learn about the natural, native, immigrant, industry, transportation developments that shaped a place. (This is a lifelong learning, you'll never stop once you start!)

2. Be Curious about Road Names: Why is it called that? This will give you alot of clues to where you are and what was there before you.

3.Find Your Own Stories: What do you feel, see, think and wonder in this place? What is an experience you have had here? Your own feelings and stories shape your sense of a place. You don't need to know anything to have a meaningful connection with a place, but whatever you learn can only enrich that connection.

Together, all of this will help you make "sense" of a place, and perhaps start a whole train of thought that can lead to a story, essay or song. Who knows?! Try these tips where you live, or wherever you go.

"Living in one of the most magnificent landscapes in the world and I pride myself on the many ways that I appreciate and value this gift of place. Often my attempts to capture the wonder of what I see on film barely begin to do it justice. But when Erica Wheeler comes to town, her passion to give voice to this land and to stretch our hearts wide open is beyond inspiring. I believe we all come away craving an even deeper relationship with, and a renewed passion for our wilderness home." Laurie Shepherd Brown, Certified Life Coach and Integrative Health Consultant, Jackson, WY

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updated: 1 year ago