Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Love of Place.

The love we feel for another human being, especially one we have spent many years beside, is also possible in our attachment to landscape, to place. Like close companions we have grown together, our minds and emotions intertwined: that city street we have walked since childhood, the beach that has been our emotional refuge in hard times, the mountain on the horizon that somehow anchors our personality. We are creatures of attachment, one of our nicer features.

Once we are grounded in this capacity, once we have practiced this for a long time, we find that we can love a greater number of places that are different from our own. The Gulf Islands are part of me, I am at home here, but the wide ocean, the Pacific Islands, the Tropical Savannah, can easily claim my love as well, perhaps because I have done it once already so well with the one.

Today I walked down to the valley below and along a familiar road, one I have walked years ago with my young children and still walk regularly these days with my wife. A cloudy day, Spring barely begun: brown leaves, bleached and beaten down grasses, a touch of snow, a complex texture of bare twigs arched over the mostly hidden little streams that wander down the hills. First frog chorus today though, robins beginning to break the winter silence, ducks chasing each other in the still half flooded fields. This familiar nondescript place is where I take my photographs today and I celebrate those browns and greys, the tattered green bramble leaves still hanging around from last season.

I see this landscape through my own experienced eyes, a place I love even though I might not usually name that feeling. I have been helped to that realization by the work of the artist Andrew Wyeth who brought out the same qualities in his paintings of the north-eastern United States. I study his paintings, feel them, and I can then reach deeper into an appreciation of my own tattered, dark, late winter landscape.

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