Working my way through The Nature Principle I have been struck by thoughts on place. In other posts (here and here), I have blogged about my dissatisfaction with the suburban life I lead. Sometimes I cringe at my surroundings (mainly when I enter “downtown” and the sea of box stores swells up before me). Other times I lament the things that are missing here (adequate public transit, walkable green spaces).
A few days ago, I ran into a family I know who is moving to this town. I caught myself telling them a few of those negatives (I can’t see the ocean, there are not enough trees in our playgrounds…). But, I also realized that I have started to come to terms with my place. Have even started to think of this place as mine. To take some ownership. We have lived here for almost 4 years, and I am just starting to accept it.
What is my reluctance to this place? I live in Langley, British Columbia. A beautiful suburb of Vancouver, in a unique transition between rural and urban. It is still a place where you can find large areas of farmland, and stands of forest and riverfront. It is also a place that has embraced the box store, and the suburban staples of freshly mown lawns and uniform homes. The town’s slogan should probably be, “a great place to raise kids.” It is complete with community centres, activities galore, and lots and lots of families. Until recently, I thought of it as a place Vancouverites went to die. A compromise. A holding place. Not a home.
Reading The Nature Principle has given me a bit of perspective. The author suggests that people don’t necessarily need to retreat to untouched nature to commune with nature. To find happiness in place. That happiness in place is, perhaps, a combination of acceptance and embracing. Acceptance allows a person to truly see what is before them. The Nature Principle, refers to our natural surroundings, things like native plants and features of the land. I would like to expand this to include community and culture. To see a place is to notice the best things about it.
I have started to do this in Langley. For example, I have started to gain an appreciation for Langley’s farm culture. The beauty of the expansive piece of farmland near our home, with the little bird houses on stakes surrounding it. The fact that the food at our farmer’s market comes from our local farms. Farms I can visit, farms I drive by every day. I have also started to enjoy the niche cultures in Langley. The vibrant horse community. The local arts community. My husband has noticed the friendliness of the families here. How strangers will stop and chat with you. Something we didn’t experience nearly as much in the city.
Embrace? I don’t think I have embraced yet. Embracing, I think, involves planting. Growing roots. And becoming involved in change. Devoting oneself to a place, and rather than lamenting its shortcomings, attempting to change them. To love a place as you would a person. Accepting its faults, but loving it just the same. I do not, yet, feel rooted in this place. But, perhaps I am starting to put down tentative feelers.
For one, I am starting to love my social community. The people I know, and the web of community that surrounds me and my children. The fact that we run into people we know wherever we go. The fact that my child can go out into the park in our townhouse complex, and play with all of the neighbourhood kids. The fact that the moms bond out there, too.
What if I do as The Nature Principle suggests, and start to really notice the natural surroundings, too? What if I start to bond with them in the same way? Would I find myself growing roots, by studying the plants in this area? By familiarizing myself with the ecosystem that surrounds me? Would I stop lamenting the lack of planning that goes into new parks, and start actively trying to change that?
The Nature Principle talks about finding your “it.” The place that fills your heart and soul. That just feels right. I don’t know if Langley is my “it.” Right now, I’d have to say, no. But, maybe, just maybe, this is a matter of simply deciding to say, yes?
These are all questions I ask myself, as I wonder, when will I, if ever, begin to truly call this place home?
And you? How do you bond with place? And how long do you think it takes to fall in love with a new community?