Thursday, March 23, 2006

A Sense of Place A Sense of Place

We all have a powerful sense of place, although sometimes we may not be consciously aware of it. Place can serve as an important factor in how we define ourselves.

Yesterday, a friend told me the story of a woman who grew up near a big tree that she really loved. As a child, she would always go sit under it and play and reflect on problems in her life. She came to feel that the tree helped her come to terms with things. Many years later, she moved back to where she grew up, and re-established her ritual of spending time near this beloved tree.

In the recent power outage, a neighbor's tall, beautiful pine tree was toppled by the winds. His grandmother had planted it many years earler, so it was a strong element in his sense of place. Alas! I used to look out my window and take great joy in seeing that tree standing tall agaist a backdrop of sky. It was a part of my sense of place too.

On a more positive note, I can report that Avenue of the Pines in Saratoga Spa State Park does not look much different after over a dozen trees were cut down in the interest of safety.

Landscapes change over time. This area used to be heavily forested. And that actually played an important role in the Battle of Saratoga. Kari Blood reports:

"In the fall of 1777, the British were advancing from the north. The American army chose to stand against them in Saratoga in large part because of the landscape. The Hudson River lay to the east and highland hills to the west, creating a narrow passage for the British. That gave the Americans a tactical advantage, enabling them to cut off the British troops’ main route to Albany. Americans also held areas of higher ground offering a view of the valley.

But it wasn’t only the lay of the land that affected the outcome of the battles. The forest itself played an important role. Densely forested areas made it difficult for the British to know where the Americans soldiers were camped. Trees in the forest also provided shelter, cover, and concealment for American riflemen as they attacked and battled the British army."

This information is part of a guide to trees on the Wilkinson Trail that will be published soon by the Saratoga National Historic Park.

Look around you. What gives you your sense of place? Are there trees, buildings, or other features of the world around you that are particularly meaningful to you? Can you envision how the area around you has changed? Are there landmarks such as beautiful trees that you remember? Be sure to let us know --- post a comment.


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