Considering Sense of Place

“Love makes you see a place differently, just as you hold differently an object that belongs to someone you love. If you know one landscape well, you will look at all other landscapes differently. And if you learn to love one place, sometimes you can also learn to love another.”

― Anne Michaels, Fugitive Pieces

The above quote was used in my defense paper for my college thesis. It comprised four short stories that tackled the themes of connection to place through family and the environment. When I finished the stories and defended my thesis I honestly felt that was the end of the topic for me. I mean I always planned on reworking the stories, but I felt I had delved into the topic of connection to place enough. However, after going on my adventure back east I found concepts from my thesis following me everywhere I went. It was to the point that I seemed to live out my thesis. I can’t tell if my stories came alive to me because of the trip or if the trip came alive to me because of the stories I’d written.

An example was in connection to people and place. Meeting my relatives in New York and seeing their connection to the area brought up my own disconnect to the region. The Strusienski’s have lived in Buffalo for at least four generations. There is even an old restaurant in the area called Strusienski’s (my great-grandfather was born in this building actually). So there is a strong “sense of place” for my family. However, for me it is nonexistent. While I enjoyed New York and liked meeting everyone, I didn’t belong there—I wasn’t connected to the environment or place. But I was and still am connected to the area by family and the connections I share with them. I saw places that my parents had mentioned about their childhood, and while I have no personal connection to these places, I feel a connection through my parents.

In juxtaposition, Massachusetts had a sense of connection to the environment. While I have been gone for nine years the length of time did not diminish what I felt with the area and the memories that certain places held. While on the beach at Cape Cod I saw the erosion of the sand dunes from recent storms. I couldn’t help but consider how the changing of the landscape could affect the local wildlife, along with individuals connected to the land and the potential impact that these changes could have on the future of the area. Of course, I can’t help but wonder that only I would be walking the beach and start thinking about these concepts and how I can write a story about them.

What I’ve come to realize, is even though I’ve turned in the papers and received the grade the knowledge that I began digging for in my academic studies will continue to follow me now as a post-grad. But that’s not a bad thing. Potentially one of the greatest dangers that any person can embrace is an unwillingness to learn and grow. So I’m choosing to keep learning and investigating these concepts, not to complete an assignment, or to come out on top, simply to discover.

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