Sense of Place Over Thanksgiving Break
After returning back to school after Thanksgiving break I noticed that my sense of place in my hometown was stronger than I thought it was before I left for the start of college. I had not payed much attention to the nature around me at the time because I was so excited to leave for college. When I returned home I began to appreciate the green-spaces I had taken for granted growing up. I visited Borderland State Park which is a conservation area with a large natural history since the Ames family, a wealthy family in Easton, Massachusetts, chose to build their mansion on the estate. This class has taught me to look at landscapes and vegetation with a more observational eye which allowed me to notice the little changes in my environment I did not have the knowledge to understand before. Learning to identify twenty one different tree species made them more apparent on my hikes. At Borderland I noticed most of the trees were Eastern Hemlocks which I never would have noticed before. I would have simply assumed they were all different evergreens and now I am able to make keen observations and ask questions such as “why is eastern hemlock so common in this one area?” Being able to notice the little details throughout my hometown made me feel more connected to it because I can better understand how the land was formed.
I think your hometown can greatly affect your view of the world. If you grow up in a city or a more rural area, you tend to be drawn to similar types of areas because it is what you are comfortable with. I was very lucky to grow up with easy access to nature reserves and hiking trails, so when looking at colleges I was drawn to places that valued the outdoors and provided many outdoor activities. People who grow up in rural towns tend to view cities with a sense of “placelessness” due to their lack of nature.
The natural history of a place can also provide significance to what it means to people. My house is right next to our town hall on main street. Every house on this street can see its natural history in its own back yard. Tall rectangular pieces of stone sit in the middle of peoples backyards representing the original property lines of the people’s land. Ours sits at the very edge of our patio and the original edge of our property is now nearly three houses down. It is interesting to imagine what the house used to look like and how it may have looked with a larger plot of land. It reminds me that the center of my town was not always so busy and full of people. The houses used to be further spread apart. I can imagine that it used to be a lot more tranquil and serene. Knowing the history of my town makes me feel more connected to it because it allows the familiarity to grow and you are more comfortable in a place that you know nearly everything about than a place you do not. Sense of place is about having a spot that is meaningful to you and I think that this feeling can grow over time, especially in absence of it. I do not think sense of place is defined by the trees you identify or the history of it because it is simply a place you hold dear and you are comfortable. However, I feel like noticing the little details in your space helps you to feel even closer to the spot because it allows you to make observations you had not seen before which provide new and stronger meaning to your home.