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Extract summarising the possibilities of connecting with place (from Spirit of Place in Finistere)

Goenidou

BELONGING

Without a sense of belonging, we are lost. It may take a long search to find that essential connection to the land, many steps beyond the false assumption that where we begin is always the most potent root-bed for our spirit. It is natural to seek anchorage, but anchors do not root. They are pulled up for each new move and re-cast at the next destination. There may be a long quest for the special place because that feeling of belonging and rightness of context is often unexpected and to be found in unlikely places and relationships. So we may drag our cord of being through countless miles and over many seas before arriving at the place of true affinity with landscape.

For some the moment of arrival is never sought. For others, it never comes. Once there, we may leave and come back, or leave and be forever asunder from some inner sliver, lacking the last piece of the jigsaw of self. Then life is lived from the outside, looking at landscape like a postcard or photograph, always separate, never full engaged. It is the engagement with our natural geophysical context that can make us whole.

Belonging is not sentimental attachment. Our place may or may not be one of ease and comfort, but true connection with the land will be sustaining. We must mirror our inner landscape with the physical setting in which we fix our lives. Just as sailors separated from the sea lose a load-bearing wall of identity, so the loss of trees or stones or still water or cherished city skylines can be a fatal blow to happiness and the inner comfort of different individuals.

Instinct draws us to what we need in the natural world, the place in which a fundamental recognition, almost a remembered state, secures our natural rhythms and buoys us up against all the uncertainties of life. It can bring the reassurance of childhood, remembered places with familiar names and smells that trigger affirming memories. It may equally be a foreign land where a depth of affinity can take us by surprise.

Harmony with landscape enables our most positive self to thrive and operate at a level beyond daily necessities. The question ‘Who am I?’ is indistinguishable from ‘Where am I?’ Finding our right place ends all those separations from lost selves, scattered along the pathway of our lives.  Arriving gathers them up again, they come flying in from all quarters, with the tender flight of homing pigeons. Being outside, inside our natural milieu brings completion. Then the world is ours and we can say ‘I am home’, holding the soft hand of the beloved.

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