The importance of a relationship with place

This morning I started reading the most recent edition of Granta, entitled ‘What have we done?’ and the first piece (‘The Invitation’) really made me think. In it Barry Lopez discusses his experiences of travelling with indigenous people and how they much they value ‘the importance of intimacy with a place.’ He comments that

Existential loneliness and a sense that one’s life is inconsequential, both of which are hallmarks of modern civilizations, seem to me to derive in part from our abandoning a belief in the therapeutic dimensions of a relationship with place.

I’ve recently started following several bloggers who live in the countryside and I’ve noticed that much of what they blog about is closely connected with the place in which they live. Mark Anderson, for example, in his blog, Down Many Roads often talks about his home in rural Illinois, and aspects of the changing seasons. (e.g.  Is spring on the way or are the robins confused? ) and this is the kind of thing I love to read.

Also, one of the writers I particularly like is Tim Winton as he blends many of his stories (e.g. those in The Turning), seamlessly into the Australian landscape.

After reading the piece by Barry Lopez, I thought about how difficult it can be to truly appreciate and feel a part of your environment, particularly when you live in a city as I do. Having said that, there are parts of London where there is a great deal of nature. I’m surrounded by three vast commons and I live near Richmond Park, where deer roam freely, so it’s not impossible.


Barry Lopez comments that

Every natural place, to my mind, is open to being known

so what I feel I need to do now (as do many city dwellers), is follow his suggestions.

1/ Pay attention (something all writers should do in any case!)

2/ Be patient

3/ Be attentive to what the body knows

In so doing, I hope to gain a sense of truly belonging to South London, the place I have chosen to call my home.