A Sense of Place

In an interview with Emergence Magazine, mythologist and storyteller Martin Shaw asks us to “think about the difference between being from a place and being of a place.”

To be of a place … involves you being alive to your own sensibilities. Whatever your age is, there could be a place that wants to reach out and say, ‘Hey stop. I’ve got something I want to say to you.

Martin Shaw

We are likely to spend more time at home in the months ahead. Wherever we live, our ability to get out into the world will ebb and flow with COVID-19 and mobility restrictions.

On one level, we are faced with the nest we have created and the clutter we have accumulated. Many friends have used their time in lockdown to purge and declutter their homes. (Advertising agencies, brands and ‘influencers’ are going to do their damned best to get you to fill those empty spaces .) I have re-ignited my interest in interior design as a consideration of interior spaces that are functional and act as sanctuaries.

On a deeper level, I continue to struggle with the question of ‘home,’ and what that really means. The contemplative traditions remind us that ‘home’ is within us, and that we can make home wherever we are. But Shaw’s reflection suggests what I have sensed for a long time: that there can be a place that calls to you, where you feel more alive and connected. That place is not always obvious, and it’s definitely not always where you are from.

It’s been a gnawing question for me for some time. In an essay, Dr. Shaw explores questions of place and claims that “from is overrated.” As I listened to his interview and subsequently read his essay, I could think of only one place.

“…if you don’t have the bones of loved ones in the ground of that land, then you have no legitimate aboriginal claim for from-ness.” — Martin Shaw
“I suggest a re-tuning of intention, a slightly more sober directive: to be of a place. To labour under a related indebtedness to a stretch of Earth that you have not claimed, but has claimed you.” — Martin Shaw
“You learn from the grandeur of its shadow as much as the many abundances. To be of means to be in. To have traded endless possibility for something specific.” — Martin Shaw
“To be of means to listen. To commit to being around, to a robust pragmatism as to what this wider murmuring may require of you.” — Martin Shaw

All photos ©Emily Avila.

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