A Place of One's Own?
I’ve been thinking about how getting out into nature has always been such a good thing
for me - even as a child it was my first “ go to” place. Having a dog with has always felt
right too as it did in my childhood. That connection has lasted and deepened for me as
I’ve become older but now I find myself in a different place to the one I was in as a child.
I know too, that then, there were places where I did not feel connected and definitely did
not feel safe.
Now I’m fortunate enough to have a place to stay when I want to get out of the city and
into the countryside to enjoy the space and fresh air. And of course the dog comes too.
There is no doubt that walking with Dolly in different places creates different experiences
for both of us. Here in this different place I am aware that something in me feels different.
Trying to put it into words or explain it is difficult. Is it more of a “sense” that this place is
different or have I a heightened sense of how I am feeling here because I am so close to
The concept of “place” is a difficult one and I’m not really sure I can explain how it affects
me. Places can be defined in many ways and sometimes it’s more about the experiences
we have in a place rather than the actual place that creates different emotions within us
and gives that place a greater or more significant meaning. When we have experiences in
our lives we attach greater meaning to those places.
For example walking Dolly the dog at home in Whalley Range is enjoyable because I am
with her and we both enjoy being out. Mostly she is on her lead until we get to the park
and then we enjoy the green space, the trees and plants and depending on the weather
the sun and the blue sky, either summer or winter is good! I look for things here such as
the first snowdrops or daffodils, the leaves returning or the smell of freshly cut grass. Here
I seek to be closer to nature in the city and Dolly can also be off her lead and enjoys
snuffling around and running. I can feel connected to nature here in this Green Space and
that feels very comforting to me.
Yet walking here it’s not the same as walking Dolly when I go to stay up in Sandgate.
Here I am surrounded by open countryside still very much a farming community. On the
salt marsh of the bay I can see miles of open space leading out to sea. The sky is huge
and goes on forever. At night time on a clear night I look up into a myriad of stars and feel
On a bright crisp January morning Dolly and I walked out onto the frozen marsh and to
the banks of the estuary and watch the wintering over birds. Among the Oyster Catchers
and Sandpipers there is a solitary Curlew and a Little Egret feeding on the mudflats. They
warm themselves in the rising sun behind me while the moon, still clearly visible, sets in
front of me. I inhale the different scents and smells of the countryside and I hear the
different sounds of the animals and birds and sometimes I just stop and listen to the
silence or the wind blowing through the grasses over the marsh. If the sheep are not
grazing on the Marsh, Dolly gets off and runs and jumps like a little wild thing. I think she
too connects with something different here - maybe it’s going back to the wolf that she
truly is! Or maybe it’s the experience of freedom and not being on a lead? Maybe that’s
what I feel too, a sense of letting go, just being here in the moment.
My last night at Sandgate before returning to the city I stood and watched the sun set
over the bay turning the water and the salt marsh pink. I felt such a moment of wonder
and happiness that nature could give me this gift of beauty and place. For that I am so
grateful and thankful and if she could speak it, I think Dolly would say it too!
As the poet Mary Oliver says “It is one of the perils of our so-called civilised age that we
do not yet acknowledge enough or cherish and love this connection between soul and
I find it hard to describe because of the difference in my feelings between these two
places. I love my home place, my community and friends. I feel grounded and connected
in my place in the city which has become so much a part of my identity since living there.
Yet I feel my connection between soul and landscape much more deeply when I’m in
Maybe it’s inevitable that being in a different place for a while will create different
experiences which in turn will stir different emotions within me. Maybe it’s not a matter of
comparison but rather a quest to identify and recognise feelings and emotions that arise
in me due to being in a different place or due to the place being different ? Then I can
learn to understand and embrace them as they arise. Maybe searching for a “place of
one’s own” starts and ends with building our own landscape within each of us.