From Anywhere to Someone’s Here

“Our sense of place includes a sense of difference. When we think the qualities (or lack thereof) of uncanny place, we arrive at a strangely familiar location – anywhere. Modern capitalism has turned America into a country of anywheres (Anytowns, USA). Neither nowhere nor everywhere, anywhere is a zero degree of place, hardly a location at all.” – 52

 

“A place bounded by horizon now seems a mere patch. That is why the really evocative poetry of place is mysterious and uncanny. There is an awareness that ‘here’ already includes ‘elsewhere,’ that ‘here’ is ‘anywhere.’” – 56

 

I’m curious about this sense of anywhere that Morton considers in the first chapter. It comes from a sense that place (in our sense) comes from our ability to see other places as different from our own. Grounded, I think of this in the way that we inherit cross-town/county rivals in our years as high-school students. Athletic competition allows a mode of othering that becomes a process of creating our own place, that we are unlike them, we have dissimilar mascots. But this, for me, quickly fades. I remember a friend talking about when he first understood places, that he always thought every town had its own ski area, and the knowledge and culture centered around this was what formed the town. Certainly a sad learning process to realize that not every place is formed around ski area, but I think this points to some flaws or problem that I’m working through with this idea of anywhere.

I think our sense of place comes from experiential knowledge, growing in the way of Snyder’s conception of nesting. My friend’s sense of place came from getting to know Steamboat, which is having the opportunity to ski it so often that he knew the layout of the mountain before like 4th grade. Being able to understand the physical area of a place, also other people’s physical and emotional attachment to a place (the mountain being the center of most revenue/economy, as well as recreation and experiential learning) led him to believe that this is how we center our lives in places. This is obviously an especially privileged perspective, given the cost of living, accessibility, landscape that offers culturally valued dramatic and sublime views, as well as smallness and potential for intimate connections with people and history. But at its base, I think this is true of places – that we associate with from within rather than opposed to. Our ability to experientially learn about landscape, other people’s attachment to place, cultural value, and economic ability to dwell creates differing attachments and understandings of places. That is they are not anywhere. For someone they are not just somewhere, but are here.

I think that the second quote I put up shows the importance of growing to understanding our attachment/disattachment to place being undefined by boundary, by horizon. As nested as our understanding is, it is not contained within the horizon seen from it. It appears to me, Morton wants us to realize the mesh through a soft focusing of place as anywhere, instead of here, that being able to transform our view of romantic place into uncanny place is to see the mesh, I think rather than seeing place as anywhere, a mesh of happenstance (take it with a grain of salt), place is always somewhere. Perhaps I am understanding this trajectory of his argument wrong, but I think I understand place and interconnectivity, the dissolve of horizon and difference better through an act of empathy, that place is derived from those who create nests within them. Being able to see how another might come to understand the physical landscape of a place, the history of their being there (inevitably fluid), their reasons for being able to live there (economy), is somewhere. I think the work of ecological thought of place is not associative anywhere, but that my there is someone else’s here, someone’s center for which they grew out of, came to understand place. Inherently, this creates vastly different and equal understandings of places, but I think it addresses the interconnectivity of mesh as being able to come to its understanding from any point, by any other point. No one lives in Anytown, USA. We all live in, and are in, the process of being precisely where we are.

(Sorry for the soapbox length. TLDR: Anywhere is not a place. Place comes from our origins, and understanding/attempting to experience other’s origin of place. ET comes from empathy, not other)

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One thought on “From Anywhere to Someone’s Here

  1. I agree that we often gain our sense of place from the immediate and local, as dangerous as that can potentially be. Over and over again, I’m reminded how the act of repetition, time, palimpsest, and layering creates a place–it is bound up as much in time as memory is in place. A mesh of who we are and where we are.

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