Place

“But what is a PLACE and how does one qualify to become one? According to Wallace Stegner, a place become a PLACE when it meets two criteria: “First, things that have happened upon it are remembered in history, ballads, yarns, legends, { [ blogs?!?! ] } or monuments; and second, it has had that human attention that at its highest reach, we call poetry.”

This quote comes from a wonderful book about a place that Matt and I hold very close to our hearts, Ghost Ranch Retreat Center in New Mexico. In the summer of 2006, before kids!, we headed out to New Mexico on an incredible road trip. We spent days driving, eating Cheez-its and sunflower seeds and listening to episode after episode of “This American Life”.

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We stayed at KOAs, played Scrabble, had leisurely picnic dinners….

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Enjoyed the amazing Colorado countryside and a visit with Matt’s Grandma Carola and the local senior center….and the corned beef….

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And ice cream….

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We drove on, into New Mexico. The vistas, scenery and culture was unlike anything I’d experienced…

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We went on hikes in the Taos Ski Valley….

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And saw tons of art and churches….

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And yet, despite all the beautiful food, culture, landscapes and art….one place truly captivated us….Ghost Ranch. Georgia O’Keeffe agreed. She said this of Ghost Ranch——-

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We rafted, hiked, climbed, ate, discussed, met incredible people….

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Even did a sweat lodge ceremony….

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(well, Matt made it through….I escaped partway…too hot!!!!!)

Ghost Ranch taught me something about place that I’d never really been able to articulate before. It was a moment of resonance for me, and us as a couple. A perfectly timed trip to reflect as our family was soon to be expanding, unbeknownst to us.

I was on an early morning walk this morning, and this idea of place was really on my mind. As Sally and I went along, sprinklers were coming to life, green bag wrapped newspapers were lining most driveways, we stopped to the rhythmic beeping of the crosswalk signals and walked by Target, Nokia, Broadcom, City Hall, a gargantuan library, multiple parks and Macy*s. Such an immense contrast to our last home. My morning walks were along rarely occupied country roads with vistas of West Sonoma County. Sally was usually off leash. Instead of perfectly manicured lawns, natural foliage, Redwood trees, and Dutch Bill Creek were our traveling companions.

So, so different. And yet, it got me thinking. Is place defined by the scenery, the temperature, the landscape (or landscaping!)….or is it the stories that unfold? The stories filled with flesh and blood and us??? Is it, like Wallace Stegner believed, about the poetry that is possible when we are living in community?

I have trouble thinking about the deeper poetry these days….thinking that putting myself, rather than my eldest, in time out might be more productive. But, place is such a rich topic. Beach, mountains, country, city, home. What do our surroundings have to say to us? And more importantly, how are we using our own, unique place to get a deeper vision of God and God’s intention for our lives?

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