sense of place

I’ve never had any kind of sense of place. I spent early years in a tiny town in Arkansas before we moved several times to end in Pasadena, Texas. The Houston Ship Channel runs along one side of town, and the structures which process oil and gas are miles of intricate metal piping and holding tanks. At night, they look like fairy palaces of lights. In the daylight, they look like some kind of monstrous ugly invention that overwhelms everything around.  I never bonded with any of it, never processed it even for bad memories, like writer Mary Karr. My real world was in books: fiction, history books, biographies, historicals. It was in England, which I imagined as green and grand. It was in some old house a Cavalier ancestor built. Now I’m in a place–Taos— where I understand what it means to bond with the ground under my feet, the trees over my head, the sky, the mountains. At twilight, I try to watch the sunset, its entire hour of departure, its drama changing each night, wild and colorful if there are clouds, quietly sensual if there are none. There are grand sweeps of pasture land to the mountains themselves. The air is clear and clean. There are adobes both new and crumbling with age. There are abandoned trucks in some yards. Horses or cattle still matter here. Cottonwoods green any creek bed or the river, even if the water is gone; otherwise there is the desert, with its grays and beiges and tough little turfs of sage and pinion. Off the main drag, main street, main highway, all rolled into one road, paved streets quickly give way to gravel or dirt ones. Today I went to a Pow Wow inside Pueblo land. The sun beat down fiercely on me and dancers from all the nations: Apache, Sioux, Navajo, Tiwas…others. They were feathered and belled and beaded into splendor. I loved their stomping, whirling dance….mirroring the heartbeat of the earth, the announcer said. This isn’t an easy place to make a living any more; small farms are a way of the past, though with all the exposure of the terrible practices of our food industry, that just may change. The sale of art and crafts and the service industry for tourists seem to be the two main props of employment. And yet, what beauty there is. But you can’t feed yourself solely on beauty. Beauty is food for the tourists, like me…..

What place is in your blood? If there isn’t one, do you feel a sense of loss, a sense of being a ghost? Are you always looking for home? Is home ever real?

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6 responses to “sense of place

  1. Karleen, I so look forward to reading your next writing. This one really stirs me in so many ways …. I can’t go into them all here. But I am inspired to write about it on my own. Thank You!

  2. Joyce Boatright

    Okay, this posting completely pulled me in. I have booked a flight and will be in Taos for a week… taking a workshop from Natalie Goldberg at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House… renting a car at the airport and driving up… will be there Sunday… Are you avaliable for dinner?

  3. Yes, and I’m so excited for you. It looks like a wonderful workshop!!

  4. Ah, you’ve discovered part of the magic that is Taos! Here, you’ve described it so beautifully, esp. your words on the sunsets. Have you ventured into the ski valley to meander through some of those creeks hidden in the trees there?

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