As you may know, we here at the Portland, Oregon based Northwest Earth Institute think that sense of place is important. Wendell Berry, America’s best-known bioregionalist says “if you don’t know where you are, you don’t know who you are.” The more we are familiar with our local environment, the sooner we act to protect it.
Which is why if you are one of the lucky people to live near the Columbia River Gorge, you should join the Northwest Earth Institute for a Summer Sense of Place Experience on Saturday, August 23rd, 2014. 50 lucky guests will join the NW Earth Institute and Dr. Scott Burns (who is endlessly knowledgeable about the Pacific Northwest) for a scenic trip through the Columbia Gorge, complete with stops at 3 Hood River Valley wineries and an amazing guided tour that unravels the Gorge’s incredible history.
Just what is a sense of place? As The Art of Geography: Bringing the Sense of Place to Life blog explains: It is a combination of characteristics that makes a place special and unique. Sense of place involves the human experience in a landscape, the local knowledge and folklore. Sense of place also grows from identifying oneself in relation to a particular piece of land on the surface of planet Earth…
Writers and geographers have been thinking about the subject for some time. Wendell Berry famously said ‘If you don’t know where you are, you don’t know who you are’. Wallace Stegner interprets this as “… talking about the knowledge of place that comes from working in it in all weathers, making a living from it, suffering from its catastrophes, loving its mornings or evenings or hot noons, valuing it for the profound investment of labor and feeling that you, your parents and grandparents, your all-but-unknown ancestors have put into it. He is talking about the knowing that poets specialize in.”
That is a sense that requires time, energy, and paying attention to realize. Many people in the 21st century spend so much time online, in their cars, at Starbucks, or in an office that they may have little connection to any unique place. Is the sense of place becoming a lost sense?
We hope not. If you are close-by, join us in August to revel in Oregon’s natural beauty. No matter where you are, you can step outside and reconnect with the place you call home – remembering that this community of people, place, plants and animals is unique and unlike any other. Enjoy!
Deborah McNamara is Director of Organizational Partnerships for the Northwest Earth Institute