“selfhood and placehood are completely intertwined”
~ page 86* “Wisdom Sits in Places” by Keith H. Basso
Arriving to IslandWood last weekend was to experience an until then hoped for reality. My last arrival and departure, visiting during a Sustainable Saturday this spring, was a tangible first encounter of knowing it was a place I needed to return to eventually. In leaving that day every piece of who I was was convinced that if I didn’t return as a student someday, I would be missing out of a piece of who I am to be.
Luckily, that dismal alternative will never have to exist! This time coming to campus was a magnified interaction with that sense of becoming in actuality. And to think that it was just the beginning of the journey these next few years, where weekends spent at Intensive will be stepping stones, marking the way along a broader path of learning.
It was a weekend of connecting the dots – names to faces, concepts to content and beginning to understand this journey and myself in the midst of it. As a classic introvert, plus encumbered by having the season’s change under the weather symptoms ensue just before arrival, the word intense now has a whole new meaning. I appreciated how much we were able to accomplish in such a short amount of time but by the end of each day, head spinning, I wasn’t too sure what had happened in the hours previously. This sense was pervasive with one vital aside – our combined tour of the grounds with IslandWood students.
For my particular group the garden was our destination of choice, and while there I found myself truly breathing for first time all weekend, still engaged, still conversational but surrounded by cultivated life and able to let everything sink in. While there the tumultuous who, what, when, why and hows compiled from input overload previously all seemed to settle themselves to a quiet lull. We walked, appreciating each element, what had been planted, tended, groomed to bloom. Our conversation traveled from how our we came to find ourselves here now to what might come to be because of it.
“As natural ‘reflectors’ that return awareness to the source from which it springs, places also provide points from which to look out on life, to grasp one’s position in the order of thing, to contemplate events from somewhere in particular.” (Basso, pg. 56)
The work that IslandWood does to facilitate these encounters is exemplary, whether in this simple moment of my own or via the education extended to youth throughout the week. Connections to my passion to see food culture transformed are alive and at work in that space specifically: through a simple exercise visiting students harvest pizza toppings to be cooked in the onsite cob oven and eaten in the surroundings from which the food came – brilliant!
“In many instances, awareness of place is brief and unselfconscious, a fleeting moment (a flash of recognition, a trace of memory) that is swiftly replaced by awareness of something else. But now and again, and sometimes without apparent cause, awareness is seized – arrested – and the place on which it settles becomes an object of spontaneous reflection and resonating sentiment.” (Basso, pg. 54)
IslandWood embodies this and thus is undeniably a place worth caring about. It refuses to let you ignore the beauty and meaning of your surroundings and that perspective creates a natural mirror for self-reflection – I look forward to experiencing this more deeply upon each return. In modern society, where avenues for this are absent, figuratively and literally, my soul is soaking up this education and experience.
The truth in these wise words cannot be understated: “you also need to drink from places” (Basso, pg. 70). I intend to make this my mantra both for personal growth and in my time on the island. Next intensive, should you need to find me, check the garden. I will surely be there and there I will be becoming.
*Referenced page numbers from Chapter Two, “Wisdom Sits in Places,” in Senses of Place edited by Steven Feld & Keith H. Basso