The sun has reached its zenith and summer is now in full swing. With schools out, people are looking towards vacations, taking time away from their busy lives to travel to somewhere else and experience all that a new and different place has to bring.
It's called several things - sense of place, spirit of place, magic of place, cultural landscape - but when it's boiled down, every place has its own magic that is derived from it's people, its buildings, and its general atmosphere. We experience this the most strongly when we get that special feeling when we are somewhere new.
While most of us are dreaming of sandy beaches and some time away from the daily grind, summer is also the perfect time of year to experience a sense or spirit of place in your own backyard. It’s easy to forget in the banality of everyday life that your home, wherever it is, has its own beauty, mysticism, and power that draws from the very mundane tasks that you seek to escape from.
If you take a moment, you can knock yourself out of your routine so you can experience it.
I myself often fall into the get up, drive to work, drive home, chill in front of the TV, go to bed habit as everyone else. The best way to jump start yourself out of that routine is to experience your surroundings at a different time of day, usually very early or very late.
I got that opportunity two weeks ago when I couldn’t fall back asleep on a Saturday morning. So I decided to stroll into the downtown area around 6 AM to head to the Starbucks. I chose my location specifically so I could walk (though I might not have chosen that if I had bothered to check that it would be a 3.75 mile round trip).
The time change did wonders. I had never seen the sun hit the brick sidewalks and slanted clay red buildings in that way before. Nor had I come across the super early birds of the city.
The bricks were uneven, some older than others with retrofitted electricity and cable lines. The local fire house had all their trucks out on the now crowded streets while they washed down the bay floors (and got my sneakers wet). The roofers were out repairing 100 year old metal roofs on rickety ladders. The landlords were fixing up their properties, propping open the doors to give you a glimpse inside the old crooked houses. The female joggers were everywhere in spandex pants regardless of their rump size (a healthy dose of reality that makes me view my own posterior more kindly). It was a new city.
On my way back, I took a slightly different root down some alleys to catch a glimpse of back yards, paying close attention to the vegetable gardens. Absent gardeners had turned even the smallest of spaces into bountiful oases. Flowers were stacked and arranged perfectly to highlight different heights and colors. Their sweat and toil shown in the beauty they created.
This is my home, my city, my neighbors. These people are where my sense of place, magic of place, spirit of place comes from. When I seek to ground and center as part of my work, to tap into an experience outside my own, these are the people and plants who contribute to that energy.
The more you understand and are present in your own home and community, the better you can tap into the magic of place, even if that place is your own backyard. It doesn't take much and the pay off is immense and meaningful.
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