Sunday, April 10, 2022

The spirit of a place.

I still buy paper wall calendars every year. And nearly every year, I think about picking up a Spirit of Place calendar, but I never do. The photos of striking landscapes are lovely -- don't get me wrong. But despite the name of the calendar, they don't really convey the spirit of the place -- at least, not to me. For that, I think, you have to be there. 

pegasustudio | Deposit Photos

Have you ever walked into a place that felt totally welcoming -- as if the place itself was glad you had come? Or maybe there was a time when a place you entered didn't welcome you at all. Both have happened to me a lot over the years.

Here's an example: Many years ago, I had a job interview in Chicago. I'd been to the Loop plenty of times, but rarely for a job search. As I walked from the train station to the interview, I felt a coldness and heaviness that I'd never felt there before. I did the interview, and as I left the building, I decided I might as well spend the rest of the day doing tourist stuff. Immediately, the feeling of coldness lifted. Now the city welcomed me! 

I didn't get that job, nor did I ever get a job in Chicago. Of course I was anxious on this occasion, as one is before a job interview, but I don't think the feeling of coldness was due to interview-related nerves. I think the city's spirit of place was telling me I wasn't ever going to make a home there.

Some time later, I walked into a different radio station for an interview, and right away it felt like I'd come home. The energy in that space felt comfortable to me. That job, I got.

Then there was the time when a realtor was showing me homes in Alexandria, VA. We saw a bunch of houses that day, but there was one that I couldn't leave fast enough. The vibe was just awful -- foreboding, even. I wondered whether the owners had had a huge fight (or worse) before leaving that day, and the bad energy still lingered.

I've learned to trust these feelings, both the "come on in!" and the "get out!" variety. And I relied on it when I was looking for a place to retire. Not totally, of course -- I had a list of more practical requirements, as well. But of all the places I visited in Colorado, none felt totally like home. Then I came back to Santa Fe and realized this city had been slyly courting me for years.

I've also incorporated the idea into my writing. In Maggie in the Dark, the first book of the Transcendence trilogy, Maggie Brandt is practically yanked off the highway as she drives past the Great Circle Earthworks in Ohio. The spirits of that place whack her upside the head, and the experience sets the story in motion.

A photo of a stunning landscape can stun and even enthrall. But to really feel the spirit of the place, I think, you need to be there.

What about you? Have you ever gotten a strong vibe from a place, either good or bad?


These moments of spirited blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Get vaxxed!


Unknown said...

I had this "right place" vibe about KU.I had gone to journalism camp there during hs on a total fluke--my dad met a professor on a plane who told him about it. So when it came time to choose a college, even tho my Illinois State Scholar status got me into any state school with a modest scholarship,every Ill. campus I visited seemed cold + foreboding. Even tho they regularly reminded me they were paying out-of-state tuition, my parents recognized that KU was the place I wanted (needed?) to be + let me attend. Each time I returned to campus from school breaks, I always felt like I settled back into my meant-to-be place.

Unknown said...

Curious this had me posting as anonymous

Unknown said...

Ack! Did it again when it clearly has "comment as" . . .

Lynne Cantwell said...

LOL! I have no idea what's up with the comments these days.

Anyway, that's cool about KU! And good on your parents for letting you attend, even though it cost them more. :)