Friday, 5 January 2018

A Sense of Place

I have always believed that there's a certain time of day when you are aware of where you really belong. Not every day, just sometimes.
It happens, this feeling, at that twilight time of day, just before the sun goes down... that lurching, heart swelling feeling that grabs you when you look out the window of a car, a train, a plane and long to be home.
I'm still very attached to the Tweed Valley where I grew up and where my family members still live, including my sister and her husband, with whom I spent a week little while back.
The mountain ranges, the river, the flowering trees, the way most oncoming drivers still lift one finger off the steering wheel in greeting as they pass— all these made me glad to be back.
The Road to Mount Warning

But there's a downside too.
One morning, hastening to get to breakfast, which my brother-in-law, Des, has on the table at 7.30, I grabbed the previous day's denim shorts, stepped one leg in, went to put the other leg in, only to see a giant huntsman spider trying to crawl out from inside. Now, I don't do spiders well but neither do I smash them with a shoe, and clearly this one was in trouble.
I took him outside, shorts and all, called Des and together we freed him from the cobwebs that had bunched up and stuck like Minnie Mouse's shoes on the end of every one of his eight legs.(Lucky for me. This is what slowed him down.)
Then began the tales of other near-misses with the local critters. Des recalled how he pushed a foot into his gardening boot one morning and felt it to be unusually tight. Investigation revealed a cane toad inside, firmly ensconced up in the toe of his boot. (Have you fainted yet? I nearly did.)
So yes, there are indeed more critters up there than I'm used to in Melbourne—spiders, snakes, goannas, cane toads, ticks, to name a few—and they like to get up close and personal. The giant carpet snakes under the corrugated iron roof of their shed are spoken of with some affection.
But the views do indeed make my heart lurch and it's hard to stop taking photos of the flowering trees as well.
Illawarra Flame tree in bloom

All of which leads me to think about writers who write about place and landscape so evocatively that you feel their love for the place in every word.
Tim Winton has to be top of the list. In all of his novels he evokes a sense of place that is almost palpable.
He urges us to feel the ground beneath our feet wherever we are, to see the landscape as a living entity and to stop moving long enough to hear what it's telling us.

If I'd been listening it might have warned me about that big spider.



  1. Beautiful piece of writing. Invokes past and present and how they become a single strand.

  2. The luckiest people are those who can return to, or merely remember, a special place that has helped form their lives. Mine is a place from my childhood where I spent time as a baby to every school holiday with my family, my grandparent's house in East Gippsland overlooking the ocean. I totally understand your "sense of place".
    Jo , a saltwater woman
    PS I'm halfway through Tim Winton's "the shepherd's hut". He's done it again, that wonderful sense of place

  3. We're so lucky to have these special memories. I wonder what kids these days will remember decades from now??
    And yes, Tim Winton remains the master!


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