Tuesday, March 3, 2009

EntropyPawsed:Sense of Place

Development of a sense of place is integral to leading a fulfilled low energy lifestyle. One might even say a nature linked low energy lifestyle requires an expanded sense of place. Developing this sense may require us to suspend some of our beliefs as to the nature of world we inhabit. The development of an expanded sense of place may subsequently cause us to modify our belief set as to the nature of our world.

Part of the human condition means that each of us takes our growing up experience and extrapolates it to arrive at assumptions about the basic nature of life. For example, as a 10 year old Cub Scout in 1963, I watched films about a future USA where energy would be so plentiful that it would be free to all! Harnessing the process that powered the sun (nuclear fusion energy) was claimed to be 30 years from widespread deployment. My belief set caused me to accept this thesis, and I still believe in free energy to all! (Not really, but this fits better with my example:)

We are most likely helped along in this process by the unintended but pervasive conditioning happening to us while we grow up. Home, school, peers, church, teams, media are all sources of conditioning. What we are left with is a set of beliefs as to the fundamental nature of the world. We project those beliefs forward to give ourselves a set of expectations as to the nature of the world we now inhabit and will inhabit in the future.

However, many of us then immerse ourselves in various programs that modify the shape of this belief set. We may do this in professional training post graduate from university, and/or by various religious or personal development paths like Christianity, EST, mountaineering, psychotherapy, race car driving, Buddhism, ....

Development of an expanded sense of place may seem trivial, but it can provide a fundamental catalyst to help us develop a more realistic belief set as to the nature of the world.

It is significantly easier to develop a sense of place living in a rural setting. Small towns offer slightly more challenges. Cities are yet more challenging. If you live in a city, you might have to get really creative to find some bits of nature poking through the constructs of Homo sapiens sapiens.

There are many exercises that can help us develop a sense of place. Below are just a few. Check out the Wilderness Awareness School if you find a desire to thoroughly immerse yourself.

Walking each day along a similar path can help you get acquainted with your area in each of the seasons. Name some of the places where you walk. Study the characteristics of each place. Is it warm or cool? Flat or sloped? What kinds of plants growth there? How do you feel when you come to this place? Find more of your own questions to ask. Make the name memorable. Begin to refer to this place by name.

Take time to get to know some of the trees. Make sure you do not fall into the trap of learning its name and then thinking you know all there is to know.

Look closely at its bark on the trunk. Notice the patterns and colors. Is it patchy or scaly? Deeply fissured? Gray or brown? Reddish? Does the bark look the same or different higher up the tree? How about out on the branches? What is the branching pattern? Opposite or alternate? What color are the flowers? When does it flower? What tones of green are the leaves? What colors do they turn in the fall?

If you do not know the name, learn it. Learn the Latin name. What does it mean? What kind of fruit does it produce? Are there parts of the tree that are edible? Medicinal? What is the nature of its wood? Is it straight grained or interwoven? Hard of soft?

Find other questions. Maybe you will find you like a particular tree. No need to understand why. You can just befriend it. Give it a name perhaps. Visit it often.

Find a three foot by three foot patch of ground. Study it closely in all the seasons. Study the characteristics of the plants that grow there. Perhaps you can sketch some of them. Ask the relevant questions above of each plant. Here is an amazing resource about plants: Plants for a Future. Find some insects, worms, other beings in the web of life. Learn what you can.

Learn about the native soils and rocks of your area. Find examples.

Find a secret sit spot. Go sit there every day if you can. If not everyday, then sit there when you can. Be like an owl. Engage all of your senses. Feel the air against the skin of your cheek. Smell and taste the air. Listen to the sounds. Hear all the sounds in the range of your hearing. Unfocus your eyes. See the whole field of your vision without focusing in any one spot.

You will become hyper aware of movement by seeing your whole field of vision simultaneously. Perhaps the movement of a small insect will find your attention. If you focus on it, do so only momentarily, then go back to defocusing, and seeing your whole field of vision. Try to expand your awareness out to the entire area where you have been walking.

Learn some wild plants that are edible. Make sure of your identification before your eat them. But give them a try. What animals lived in your area historically? What humans lived there before us? (before civilization arrived). Put out some bird feed at your home or apartment. Watch the birds. Learn about them.

According to Jon Young of Wilderness Awareness School, who studied indigenous cultures worldwide as his post graduate university work, all cultures share some common traits. One of these traits is for the people to be able to travel the area they inhabit (within a several hour walk) mentally. This may not be as airy fairy as it first seems. If you are blessed with the time to develop your own sense of place, you may find that merely by quieting your mind, you will develop an awareness of what is happening in “your” place at any given time.

Visit our website, http://entropypawsed.org

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