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Landscape and Memory

December 28, 2008

Visiting my parents this Christmas, I was able to wander around the area I grew up in and one thing that struck me quite forcefully was how potent the landscape was with personal meaning. For instance, the lane close to my parents house was not just a lane leading from A to B but a place of countless childhood adventures (imagined and otherwise). The oak tree halfway along this lane was not merely a tree but something slightly sinister due to it’s frequent appearances in the ghost stories we village kids used to scare each other with. Similarly the fallen tree at the end of the lane was more than a fallen tree – it was our den and, in later years, when I was more interested in boys than making dens, it became the place where I had my first kiss. 

The lane runs along a slight ridgeway and halfway along there is a break in the hedgerow from which you can see much of the surrounding area. I stopped here and allowed the landscape to evoke memory after memory – some joyful and some unhappy, some special and some mundane. From my vantage point I could see the bus stop where I spent hours as a teenager waiting for the bus to take me to college. I could see the steep field which my sister and I once decided to do roly-polys down just after the corn had been cut – we looked like we had measles by the time we reached the bottom, as we were so badly prickled by the stubble! I noticed another field where I had spent night after night watching for meteorites or ‘UFOs’ as I used to think they were. To put in simply, so many aspects of my childhood seemed to be inscribed on to the landscape and this got me thinking that it must have been the same for people and communities in the past – probably more so as people moved about less so would have occupied the same landscape for their entire lives. 

I grew up in a very rural area so my personal landscape is one of fields, trees and hills. However, I imagine people who have dwelt in the same town or city for a considerable time will feel the same about certain aspects of the urban landscape. Just as each tree, hedge, field, hollow, track or hill would have meant something to someone at some point, I guess each street corner or park does too. 

So, something to think about when you’re out and about…..  🙂

6 Comments leave one →
  1. December 28, 2008 10:30 pm

    Kittyboo are you still at your parents? because if so, come and see us?

    would love to meet you!

    Cw x

  2. December 29, 2008 12:15 am

    such a lovely post kittyboo, so true too.

    Hope you and your family had a lovely christmas! I did leave you a comment the other day on your sisters scarf post, but it doesn’t seem to have worked. Ah well! I was only saying how gorgeous the scarf was and not to worry and to have a wonderful celebration! :o)


  3. December 29, 2008 8:40 am

    Hi CW – nope, back in Wales now but I’m sure we’ll be down again sometime soon so I’ll be in touch – if not before, we should be down for the Blossomtime Big Apple – looking forward to the Grand Cider tasting!

    Hi Hen – thanks very much. My over zealous spam filter seems to have caught your comment on the scarf but I’ve since rescued it! My sister loved the scarf so I was happy. Hope you had a great christmas too.

  4. December 30, 2008 3:28 am

    Lovely post. I grew up in West Texas, which is, by most people’s standards, an unattractive area — very flat, no trees, dusty, dry, cotton fields, cow lots, etc. — but, as you said so well, memory does overlay an extra dimension to any given landscape (urban or rural). A nondescript cotton field across from my childhood home becomes beautiful with the memories of days spent playing in it with my brothers…

  5. dowhatyoulove permalink
    December 30, 2008 7:11 am

    What a wonderful insight. I think we fail to realize to what extent our emotions, feelings, memories, and experiences are tied to not only the surroundings in which they happened, but also to deep aspects of our souls. As we become aware of this we can remember and embrace the possitive things that we have learned and experienced, and accept and let go of old injuries.
    I think thats wonderful you got to reflect on the influence of your surroundings on your childhood and life.
    As this new year comes, we should all take a moment to reflect on the world around us, and how much it influences us, and how much we influence it.
    Hope you all had a wonderful holiday!

  6. January 1, 2009 11:24 am

    Wil – thanks very much. It’s interesting to hear about the landscape you grew up in as it’s so different to anything I’ve ever encountered. I love how blogging can widen horizons!

    dowhatyoulove – thank you. I agree, it’s important to take time to reflect and reconnect every now and then.

    Happy New Year both!

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