If you have a sense of place, you don’t need to look for one

Letter from Slim Wolfe

Sense of Place – January 2002 – Colorado Central Magazine

Ed and Martha:

I enjoyed your accounts of the oldest towns (December issue). I had recently taken a day-tour of some of these fragile settlements down around the state line. One could wish the whole region might be frozen as a monument, but the third law of real estate in a low-pressure area is about to kick in, so those wanting to wallow as I did in some historic sense of place might better do it soon. That strangely white and grandiose hilltop monastery-thing in San Luis may be a sign of more grandiose things to follow.

No offense to anyone, but I’m amused by all this chatter about sense of place. Aren’t we a bit like the lady who shaved her head, because hair was such a bother, and then got herself a wig so she could have a sense of hair? When sense of place is intrinsic, it need not be sought after. The place is still there if one chooses to make the approach, by integrating oneself with the place as people once did as a matter of course, raising up food, housing, clothing, and education and arts from the place. If you can’t be troubled to do some of this at least, your sense will be of a virtual place bought with your money, and virtual (that is, borrowed rather than earned) money will remove your place even more.

It’s easy enough to ooh and aah about the brave vaqueros of historic Garcia stacking adobes under a hail of hostile arrows, with no phone to call for back-up; returning on a well-paved highway to one’s abode in which the natural world has been boxed out by the flatness of drywall and fossil-fuel heat. Real sense of place can still be found, however, only through a real and physical interaction with the place, rough and smelly and back-breaking. The rest of you Easterners will only know a virtual West, whatever your zip code.

The way to get a sense of bread is to by golly get down and knead. Having lost necessity, we have lost the mother of invention. Without those two, sense of history and place are faint, indeed.

Slim Wolfe

Villa Grove