A sense of place

 
Photo: Aaron Dowd, May 2018. Poem by  Hafez ,  14th century .

Photo: Aaron Dowd, May 2018. Poem by Hafez, 14th century.

 

Editor’s note: This piece was written by Wilma A. Doane on March 19, 2013 as a reflection on life and places where a sense of belonging is felt. Wilma was the original inspiration for Woman of Wonder; you can read more about Wilma here.

Travel is in my blood. My sense of curiosity makes me anxious to go and see all that my world contains. The only restriction has ever been sufficient funds to achieve these goals, but sometimes faith allowed me to just go and the money was always miraculously there.

A perfect example of this was a time when I was out of work and had an invitation to come to Santa Domingo and stay with a dear friend on her sailboat. Not having an income made me hesitate but the desire was fulfilled when I learned that my former company had made an error on the final paycheck and sent an additional check in the exact amount for the cost of the plane fare to Santa Domingo less about 5 cents. I thought this was the sign indicating it was okay to go and had an extraordinary month-long trip to an exotic place, including a side trip to Texas to visit my brother.

Photo: Aerial view of Orcas Island, Washington,  a work of an    Environmental Protection Agency    employee, taken as part of that person's official duties. As    works    of the    U.S. federal government   , all EPA images are in the     public domain    .

Photo: Aerial view of Orcas Island, Washington, a work of an Environmental Protection Agency employee, taken as part of that person's official duties. As works of the U.S. federal government, all EPA images are in the public domain.

Whenever I travel, I need to find out as much as possible about where I am going. Books, travel guides, information from friends, and now internet searching help obtain a sense of place. Occasionally I find myself somewhere that just doesn’t feel right. There is never something specific that makes me feel uncomfortable, but the sense of place is wrong for me.

As the year 2000 was fast approaching, a warning went out that the end of the world was going to happen. Even if the world didn’t end, it was believed computers would all quit working. Everyone was encouraged to choose a favorite spot in which to meet the end. In thinking of my favorite spot there was only one that came to mind.

Where is this perfect place where I felt I could stay forever?

Living in a unique part of the USA where within a few hours I can be in any climate, see rivers, lakes, ocean, islands, mountains, including a volcano, high desert, rainforest, wheat fields, vineyards, orchards, or travel just a little further and be in a foreign country – you might guess my favorite travel spot would be close to home, and it is.

Photo: LarryB55 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,  Wikimedia . Orcas Island, Washington.

Photo: LarryB55 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia. Orcas Island, Washington.

Now to get a sense of the place, you must take a ferry ride over ocean water with scenery found mostly in beautifully illustrated books. But here it is real, and you look out and see low evergreen covered hills in the distance and many other islands. You walk out on the deck and feel the cool breeze blowing in your face and see the wake of waves behind the ferry boat. You breathe the fresh clean ocean air and marvel that this area is so beautiful.

Upon arrival, after stopping at several other islands and hearing the ferry boat hit gently against the dock and watch as the cars unload hoping that the visible space between the dock and the boat is narrower than it looks and the cars actually hit on land and not disappear into the water below, your turn to unload arrives. With expectation you drive off the ferry and follow the road up island to a bed and breakfast where you will stay the night.

The sun is shining as you enjoy a delicious breakfast before hitting the road to explore the island. This is an area that has changed greatly over the years from a slightly unknown area, where only locals went, to one where rich folks built huge homes and fly over instead of taking the ferry. But the basic charm of the area is still the same and it is a place that artistic people have found comfortable to pursue their craft and so there are all the fun places to shop.

Now imagine stopping the car, taking a short gently rising walk up a hill and now standing upon the top of the world with a 360-degree view. You duck your head as a bald eagle flies over and you try and count all the islands you see out in the ocean as you turn slowly around under a brilliant blue sky.

What beauty and peacefulness to enjoy. It is truly breathtaking.

May my sense of place become yours, if you ever have the opportunity to visit Mt. Constitution on Orcas Island, Washington.

~ Wilma A. Doane
March 19, 2013

 

This place where you are right now

This place where you are right now
God circled on a map for you.

Wherever your eyes and arms and heart can move
against the earth and the sky,

The Beloved has bowed there –
knowing you were coming.

I could tell you a priceless secret about
your real worth, dear

But any unkindness to yourself
any confusion about others,

Will keep one from accepting
the grace, the love

The sublime freedom
divine knowledge always offers to you.

~Hafez, a 14th Century poet

Mt. Constitution in Moran State Park, Orcas Island Washington.  Wikimedia .

Mt. Constitution in Moran State Park, Orcas Island Washington. Wikimedia.