“Our place is part of what we are.” Gary Snyder
I’m reading ‘The Practice of the Wild’ by Gary Snyder. It’s been on my list for some years now, and in my very large TBR (and ever-growing) stack. His words are making me think about our landscapes and how they help shape the narratives of our lives. And also conversely, how our narratives shape the landscape.
“Narratives are one sort of trace that we leave in the world.” Gary Snyder
I often equate “my landscape” with the mountainous region that I grew up in. So much of what we feel and experience is shaped in early childhood and carries over into adulthood. I will never forget the woods and waters around my childhood home where I spent hours outside learning the names of plants, climbing trees, looking for mushrooms, digging for treasure, chasing lightning bugs, and scooping up tadpoles so I could feel how cold their slimy skin was even in the sun-warmed mud puddles. Rolling down hills of freshly mown grass until I was dizzy, then smelling that green aroma still on my clothes and skin and hair at the end of a never-ending summer day, this I remember.
Nature was, and still is, my place of grounding and solace.
“The childhood landscape is learned on foot, and a map is inscribed in the mind– trails and pathways and groves- the mean dog, the cranky old man’s house, the pasture with a bull in it – going out wider and farther. All of us carry within us a picture of the terrain that was learned roughly between the ages of six and nine.… You can almost totally recall the place you walked, played, bike, swam. Revisualizing that place with its smells and textures, walking through it again in your imagination, has a grounding and settling effect. As a contemporary thought we might also wonder how it is for those whose childhood landscape was being ripped up by bulldozers, or his family moving about made it all a blur.”
~ Gary Snyder
I walk through that landscape in my mind quite often. I see the apple trees that bore small, tart fruit. I see my mom collecting the apples, boiling them into a thick, sugary butter. I smell the wafting cinnamon oil so strong that it burns my eyes even today as I think about it.
That’s one narrative I’ll leave in the world. But I have another, and that’s the narrative I am working on now, in this place. They’re connected, of course. They’re mine, and only mine. In a way, I’ve lived many lives, all in this one lifetime. I think each of us has. And hopefully there will be more narratives, more years, more lives to come.
“And all the lives we ever lived and all the lives to be are full of trees
and changing leaves.” ~ Virginia Woolf
Photos taken by me of my childhood home and surrounding area. The street I grew up on didn’t have a name until I had already left home thirty-two years ago. It is now E Street. My sister still lives there in the home we grew up in.