Thursday, July 22, 2010

the importance of place

changes of altitude

as a Southerner I know place is early on to who we are,

before what we do can contract to define us
we are simmered in a stew of terrain, weather, family, and social realities
which mix into us, and, within that melding,
we become part of the land,
or rather the land becomes part of us,

early on when I meet people,
I ask where they’re from,
and place is a window to some truth of them for me,

all of this comes to me as I prepare myself to change places:
July rides heavy and hot on me here
so close to where piedmont falls away into coastal plain,
temperature outside passes my internal temperature
and the air becomes so heavy with water
that it can’t hold my sweat,
so I retreat inside to where the air is conditioned
and I can change my shirts
which weep with what physical effort costs me these days,
I walk and bike for exercise, mow the yard, till the garden,
pick tomatoes and dig potatoes,
inside I do chore after chore I’ve put on my checklist of what needs doing,
yet I miss living more outside,
the outside which means more to me than a view out the window,
I tire of forcing myself through the air,
of fighting the bugs who assault me,

I want the outside to be where I spend my best time,
where I live most truly,

so I’m ready to escape from the lowlands to the highlands,
changes of altitude, for me, can equal changes of attitude,
so I’ll go west until I’m back in the mountains,

like hunters and gatherers who moved by the season
to fit themselves into where the food was,
where I am is important to who I am,
and, for now, I need the high country.

by Henry Walker
July 21, ’10

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