chapter  2
12 Pages

Sense of Place: Its Relationship to Self and Time

Sense of place would seem clearly a function of time: a period of time must lapse before one can have a sense of place. Yet this is not quite right for, as we shall see later, we can identify with a place immediately. More true is this: place must stop changing for a human being to be able to grasp it and so have a sense of it. Some places change so slowly that, from a human perspective, they are timeless. Large natural features - mountains, forests, and rivers - are outstanding examples. People come and go, generations pass, but the mountain or river stays much the same. Some old human habitations seem changeless. Of course, they have had a history, but that history - history as development - came to a stop, or seems to have come to a stop; and thereafter, human beings see it and remember it as changeless. A key characteristic of modern times, as we all know, is the rapidity and ubiquity of change. What was scrubland is now a shopping mall. Our hometown is barely recognizable after an absence of ten years. A whole mountaintop can be removed in a matter of weeks to gain access to coal. The last event is perhaps the most disturbing, for if even the hills - those 'eternal hills' of old eloquence - are not fixtures, what are? How can we develop a sense of place - of any place - if nothing stays put?