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2011-07-21 - 1:11 p.m.

....what is your place knowledge?

I'm looking out my office window at another (the same?) gray blanket of clouds. This is indeed the 'bummer summer' of 2011 for Funcouver. But I'm still not complaining (okay, maybe a little). The truth is that I prefer to be cold rather than hot, and so I was very happy to pull up another blanket and cuddle into it last night.

Right now the weather up here on the mountain is quite dramatic with the wind, intermittent sun, and rain. I can see the clouds piling up on the mountains on the San Juan Islands. Clouds piling up on mountains is one of the first visuals that I associate with living out here. These mountains just keep taking a constant pounding from the persistent weather. And slowly, over time, the rain wins at grinding them down. But boy, what a pounding it takes to get there. And these mountains - they respond by continuing to work their way out of this earth: earthquakes, volcanoes. That's the amazing thing about being out here.

I sat in on a seminar that was offered a couple of years ago, and it explored the question of "place knowledge." Your "place knowledge" becomes part of your identity - it can define what makes you comfortable and how you react to your surroundings.

I never grew up around mountains, oceans, earthquakes, or volcanoes. Thunderstorms, heat waves, and tornadoes are my familiars. So there's a strange newness to this age-old, dramatic argument between earth and air and water that fascinates me, but feels so foreign, and distant from my "place."

The same with the Northwest woods and wilderness. For some reason I've been thinking about this a lot recently - perhaps because we have started to talk about taking our first family camping trip. I've lived a lot of places in my life, but I've found that my "place knowledge" seems rooted in the places I roamed for the first 20 years of my life. I am in my element when I return to the woods and fields in the Midwest, Northeast, and Upstate. The area just feels familiar - knowing the bird sounds. Knowing to step over the poison oak and to look out for the copperheads. Knowing that seeing the backs of the leaves means a thunderstorm is on its way.

Slowly I am becoming more comfortable with the trees and sounds out here, but the foreignness still feels a bit overwhelming. I can look at Midwest trees and know them all by name. Here I am still learning the difference between a cedar and a hemlock... (and yes, there's a pretty big difference...)

My new favorite plant out here is one for which I don't even have a name. It grows as a low-lying bush, with beautiful light and dark green leaves, and puts strings of little pink and white bell-like flowers. And this summer, these flowers have been covered with bees. I want to grow these plants. When I see them in the woods, they make me feel comfortable. They just look like they belong here, more than any day lily ever will.

Anyway, amazing how looking out that clouds rolling over an island can make me think of all these things. Time to open the window and listen to that wind out there.

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...they are just words, Suzi... - 2011-08-29
...the nature of doing science... - 2011-07-22
....what is your place knowledge? - 2011-07-21's Friday... - 2011-07-15
...a small ripple on the big wave... - 2011-02-04

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