Sense of Place and Nature’s Role



“An individual is not too distinct from his place. He is his place.”

— Gabriel Marcel


Sense of place.  Have you heard this phrase? I first heard it several years ago and although it was new terminology to me, the concept was familiar. To put it simply, it refers to the meaning attributed to a place as influenced by our interactions with it.

Close your eyes for a moment and think of the places that were important to you during your childhood. Was there a certain stream you loved exploring? A favorite climbing tree or place to build a fort? How about a market, museum, or place of worship? What memories are attached to these places? What significance do they hold for you? Chances are that you have strong emotional connections to these special places from your childhood. In addition to emotional ties, places can also hold historical, spiritual, or cultural significance.

Now take a few moments to think about your favorite places where you currently live and what special meaning each one holds. Perhaps the Topsham Public Library is one of these places. I dare guess that it is. Like Diane said in the annual report (pick up a copy at the circulation desk or in the latest Cryer), our library is a treasured resource for many. The nature that surrounds you is also an important aspect of your sense of place. If you haven’t done so already, I invite you to include the lovely grounds around the library as part of your visits – enjoy a read on our patio where you can breathe in fresh air and feel the sun warm your skin; stroll through the gardens (see the last post for ideas to deepen your experience) and notice what has changed since your last visit; venture down to the path along the river where you’ll discover a small fern forest, plants you may not have noticed before (did you know there’s Silverrod and Maple-leafed Viburnum growing there?), heron tracks in the mud, and maybe even startle some snoozing ducks.

Why is sense of place important?  Here are just some of the reasons:

  • Connecting to one’s surrounding environment establishes knowledge of and appreciation for its resources;
  • A sense of place supports the development of personal identity and purpose;
  • Having a strong sense of place can inspire stewardship;
  • Understanding sense of place can nurture empathy. 

Every trip to the farmer’s market or coffee shop, every exploration of surrounding trails and nature preserves, every time you pick wild berries (did you see Jen’s Lemon Posset with Blueberry-Cherry Wine Sauce?!), every event attended in our community, every observation made in our own backyard, is being woven together to create our own unique sense of place. How does the library fit into yours?

Until next time, stay curious & get outside to notice nature!

(your friendly library nature nerd)