Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Place and identity

"Having a place is integral to the formation of a healthy ecological identity. Being "placed" in a landscape shapes the mind - the contours of the hills, the rivers and lakes and the forests become mirrored in a person's way of being. To have one's place in the mountains is, in a sense, to become mountainous in ones' identity. Is it not then, as so often is the case in our industrial cultrue ,that to have on place to call home is to become NOWHERE in one's identity? One becomes... disconnected, disenchanted: displaced."

Jason Kirkey. The Salmon in the Spring.

The next idea from this book that took my heart for a walk was this one... do we, in order to be fully human have to know our place...

is this sense of dis-place-ment that he speaks of, at the centre of the restlessness of spirit and the loneliness that we feel

is our seeking for peace of mind and our sense of self as simple as losing our heart to the land

i wonder does this scare us because we know just what we have done to the planet - all the taming and the choking and the dismissing - is that part of the anguish in our own souls

if we can find the place on the planet that we feel "placed" - that we connect with - i believe experienced as a sense of belonging or knowing even a sense of deep love - then we have a chance to become re-placed...

to rediscover our sense of place is to replace our old ways - to replace our sense of self as lonely and searching with a sense of self as here and belonging

it will require us to listen hard

it will require us to heal

and i certainly will require us to change our ways of being on the earth...

but when one belongs, when one is truely connected it seems the need to dominate just falls away...

Maori have a word whenua (pronounced Fen -oo-a a is like the u is pronounced in up) which means land. It also means placenta. When a baby is born the whenua is taken to the ancestoral land and buried soon after birth. This returns the child's first companion to the earth, connects that child forever, to that place and the cycle of life is acknowledged honoured and complete.

My whenua got thrown away.

Home on this beautiful planet has many views for me.

This view in the photo is the place that is my place right now, the place i see when i look out of my window... a small rise, pasture where there is supposed to be swamp and bush... a small remnant of regrowing forest, not healthy because it is grazed under and the cattle eat the regenerating seedlings, trample roots, chew bark... but it is there, with a dark secretness about the shadows underneath it...

This place is not wild but the green feeds me in a way i can't explain, and the regrowing bush, the wildness which still could be on the side of the steep hillock, whispers to me about the need for my wildness to be protected, about the climb and that there is something to see over the other side...

or maybe it is not a symbol at all

maybe that hill is just there

(but i think it is glad to be seen by me)

what does your place look like?


  1. My place looks like the picture at the top of my blog...

    My soul has shriveled since I was torn away from that place...

  2. Jane, this is a beautiful, heartbreaking post that rings so true. "all the taming and the choking and the dismissing - is that part of the anguish in our own souls" That expresses what we must all feel often without knowing it. I love the new meaning you give to the word re-placed. How our souls cry out for that. I love seeing the picture of what you see from your window. Here is a glimpse of my place:

  3. I watched a wonderful dvd this morning about women's spirituality and the Goddess and connections to nature. There were views of many ancient places, including Stonehenge. Stonehenge is in my heart and soul.

  4. As a transplant from the West Coast to the Midwest of the US, I have often said I was ripped away from my natural habitat. I feel the longing to "go home" every day. I loved this post, and especially the story about the Maori. My whenua got thrown away too.

    Profound - deeply & soufully. I will remember these words for a very long time. Thank you.

  5. dear me - your soul shrivelling is heartbreaking may it find peace and new roots in an Eagles' nest

    dear Elizabeth - it is because of you that i have found Jason - and part of my spirit has been restored...<3

    my mollie - i am sure Stonehenge misses you too... i hope you recognised yourself as a Goddess incarnate....i do

    Queen Dani - i know you get this - seeing your toes in the ocean in my mind's eye as i type this... i think i will write another post about whenua because i have loong thoughts about this lovely to connect with you here....

  6. "My whenua got thrown away." Mine, too. I wish we still kept them in turtle shell rattles and bone rattles. I wish we buried them. I wish we did something with them. I wish we still venerated the things that nourished us.

    Thank you for writing this post -- at the moment, the view out my window looks like a rooftop scene from Mary Poppins. It is my first time living in the city -- I love how it is lively and invigorating. I hate how it is beige and gray and devoid of green.

    I grew up in the suburban country. And I loved the green there. But that is not my natural habitat. I have only ever felt truly and deeply connected and at home in two places -- the cedar swamp I used to visit in northern Wisconsin (all loamy and rich and dripping with smells and the black earth sinking back into itself); and when I was in Ireland. I'd never been to Ireland, but the moment I landed, I knew a sense of relieved homesickness, the depth and breadth and ache of which I could never have imagined before going there. I still ache for it.