by Linda Sechrist
The qualities that make a place special to us are highly personal, and they often help us to define who we are. Whether the setting is a lake house, a mountain lodge, a seashore cottage or a backyard at twilight, our sensory connections to these special places shape us in deep and lasting ways. Childhood experiences of our hometowns and memorable spots where we ran free during summer vacations are often deeply embedded in our strongest memories.
This relationship to place is one that we carry within ourselves for a lifetime. Nobel Prize-winning author William Faulkner noted that his own “little postage stamp of native soil” was an inexhaustible source of material. Fellow Mississippian and Pulitzer Prize winner Eudora Welty wrote, “Place absorbs our earliest notice and attention, it bestows on us our original awareness; and our critical powers spring up from the study of it and the growth of experience inside it. It is to this place that each of us goes to find the clearest, deepest identity of ourselves.”
Psychologist Carl Jung lived nearly half his life in a home he built in the village of Bolligen, on Switzerland’s Lake Zurich. In his memoir, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Jung remarked, “At Bolligen, I am in the midst of my true life, I am most deeply myself. At times I feel as if I am spread out over the landscape and inside things, and am myself living in every tree, in the splashing of the waves, in the clouds and the animals that come and go, in the procession of the seasons. In Bolligen, silence surrounds me almost audibly, and I live in modest harmony with nature.”
Iona Dreaming: The Healing Power of Place, is Clare Cooper Marcus’ journal of her six months on the Scottish island of Iona. The author writes, “I feel pure in this place. It is as if there was no separation between my living, breathing, perceiving body and my soul-nature. No posturing, no pretending. I am who I am—no more, no less. As my breathing slows and I relax, I experience the sound of the sea passing through me—not me hearing the sea, not me and the sea—just the sound. A breeze blows across my face; the sun shines on my cheeks and forehead. For a moment, they seem to penetrate my body. Then, they just are. My body ceases to exist. No Clare or ego or a specific person, but a manifestation of divine energy just like everything around me… our separateness just an illusion.”
These kinds of intimate experiences occur most often when we are in a relaxed or meditative state, or spending full-bodied, multisensory, openhearted time in nature. Such moments inspire the experience described by American Poet Robinson Jeffers in which we “fall in love outward.”
Linda Sechrist is a senior staff writer for Natural Awakenings magazines.