Sense of Place

Growing up white in mid-century, upper middle class southern California was very much like a popularity contest. If one were thin, preferably blond and fairly liberal with one’s affiliations, life moved along much as well oiled cogs in a gear. My own hair when I didn’t iron it out flat was wiry, reddish, and slung down below shoulders resting on large latissimus dorsi, doubtless Creation’s way of urging me back to the evolutionary waters from which we all emerged. Perhaps these muscles alone were a sign for me to dive deep, to never settle for what was found on the surface of things. As an avid swimmer, I discovered the deeper I dove, the clearer the waters became.

With wide hips and an uncertain manner, I felt oddly dissembled in that fashion-conscious environment. This isn’t to to say I didn’t try and fit in; lord knows I gave it my best effort. But it was not in the cards I was dealt to continue along that trajectory. A little seed in the form of an embolism was blooming in my left lung, product of the chock-full-of-hormones birth control pills dispensed like Pez candies at the free clinic. Following a near death experience, a month in hospital and nineteen years of residing above a smog-enshrouded city, I fled as far from where I stood to the utterly unknown Maine woods where I was to spend the next 32 years of my life.

It took nearly three decades to dislodge what was no longer useful from my upbringing. In its place, I cultivated a lifetime bond with nature and her sentient beings. I learned to sit in silence, trembling at first from the sheer chaos of a mind in overdrive. Hours spent on loamy earth and giant granite boulders grounded me firmly to my body, perhaps for the first time. I observed as eagles and osprey, great blue herons and loons arrived and departed with the seasons. Tiny details in discernment taught me the difference between raven and crow, sedges and grass, hemlock and fir; shifts in the air portending clear skies or storm. All manner of wild furred creatures crossed my path as well, from red fox and bear to moose and mother fisher cat with babies in tow.

I learned how to survive by sifting meaning from the detritus of existence. Living on the edge of an ever-impending winter while discovering pleasure in simplicity, I ultimately left the trappings of artifice behind and began growing roots deep enough to anchor well into this world. I failed to care what current fashion swept the country. My trendsetting days were behind me. It no longer made a difference who my friends were, save one good human being to whom I could truly relate, aside from my life partner. And though I have been scarred from some tough lessons, those marks, invisible to the naked eye, forever remind me never to take for granted what it took to get here, to this place in time. What I carry with me to the end will be of inner value, nothing less will matter.


31 thoughts on “Sense of Place

  1. Thank you for sharing this reflective and heartwarming story of your life journey. As with your last piece, your words float out like music and the attunement to simple pleasures, nature, and the beauty around you is not only apparent in what you write but also how you write it. I find myself feeling your journey almost in first person as I read. It’s a wonderful feeling. 🙂

    1. Swarn, you are so sweet. This really is heartwarming to read, thank you for your kind praise. I’m so glad you are able to ‘feel’ this connection to nature, for it is from the same place in my own self that the words flow. 🙂 Blessings for a gentle HumpDay 😉 Aloha ❤

      1. I will share on social media, thanks Hariod. Though it sounds far more sensible than the current political system would accept. These are all fundamentals I have long advocated for, and nice to see them all ‘under one roof,’ so to speak. Aloha.

      2. Thankyou Bela. It’s an attempt to bring about change from within — essentially, a takeover of the corporate Democrat Party and turning into a party that doesn’t just talk progressive so as to kid the voters — e.g. Clintons, Obama — but actually is progressive. That’s one way to go. The other way is through disobedience, which Chris Hedges, amongst others, advocates (see link below). The blogosphere seems awash with virtue signalling by left-leaning liberals talking amongst themselves, but I see very few actually doing anything about it. So, I see it as a binary choice — change from within, or disobedience and making them fearful.

        You have a lovely week too, my dear friend! H ❤

      3. Yes, I understand that (change from within). It’s a tricky thing in this country – those who are aware know how entrenched Washington is – we really have sold our government out to corporations long ago. I’m not sure there is the will and enough altruism Within to make said changes, despite the supposed will of the constituency. It really is discouraging – people are trying to be peaceful, but I’m with Hedges, at least ethically – it’s going to take more than just showing up for a big street party or six. Something needs to be DONE, as you so astutely point out and this fact has not slipped my mind – far from it. I’ve been saying the same damn thing ever since I suspected the current admin even had a chance to ascend to power. I’ve lost more sleep over this than with any single event in memory. What a mess. ❤

      4. Thanks Bela, and in fact I’d already read that Hedges article you link to, I think it must have been in Truthdig. By the way, you mentioned sharing the thing on your social media. For those of your readers there not au fait with what’s happened to the Democrat Party, there’s a video that explains it and which you may want to share also:

  2. I appreciate the courage and resilience that shines through your journey Bela. I am sure you have adjusted well to the changes that were inevitable. 🙂
    I have often believed that life is more like a river…cascading down with splendour and fervour, in a hurry to face all the challenges, brushing aside thicket and thorn, bouncing over the boulders and learning lovely lessons with a smile.
    Sitting by its side as it gurgles down with glee, we try to sing with it and soak in those fleeting moments of unexpected joy. I marvel at its sparkling surge and luminosity as it tries to maintain its sheen when it reaches the plains. We might seem in control of our life yet it changes its course whenever it wants, taking us along!
    Thanks for sharing this chapter of your life with us.

    1. I like your description of life like a river. I’ve spent many an hour in my life sitting on the banks of one river or another, pondering currents.

      You are so right, too – river changes course, and we have but to adjust. I really think any sort of control is illusion, save the control we exercise on our own impulses. Which is enough to manage in this life! 😉

      Thanks for reading, dear one, and may the rest of your week carry you into blessings. ❤

  3. I grew up in So Ca as well although my father was of the blue collar group of working men who worked in factories. Nonetheless, I attended high school where peer pressure was just the same and I worked so hard to fit in. I never did and ended up giving up on the whole idea. Mother threatened me if I ironed or ratted my hair and my neck was way to short for a choker. Pink lipstick looked awful on my dark complexion (I wore it for a time anyway) and I just did not fit in with the groups of girls who did these things. I loved your write as it brought back memories of my youth.

    1. Yes, it was its own kind of horrible. I considered it meritous to have survived. I love your descriptions of makeup and jewelry – good grief, the things we did! Aloha, Renee. Sending you ❤

  4. Wonderful Bela, that you share some of your journey with us.. The world of nature never judges us.. It always listens as we silently sit upon her rocks, listening to the trickle of water be it a stream or the ocean.. She soothes us and nurtures our spirit, feeding us not with Lies, but with wisdom as she teaches us with her surroundings

    Loved this when you said “I learned how to survive by sifting meaning from the detritus of existence.” nature does that, She teaches us as we sit and observe her creatures, of flora and fauna.

    Your words touched me.. I too am ever grateful for my life partner.. My only lifelong friend.. Others often in life only appear to want to take and never give, such are the lessons and scars..

    Nature asks nothing of us, She continually gives..
    We stand by our inner values Bela.. And we are true to our inner BE-ing..

    Loved reading my friend..
    Love and Blessings
    Sue xx

    1. Sue, first I thank you for your kind words. Secondly, it’s curious you, too notice how many want just to take and rarely give of themselves … this astounds me to this day. Perhaps it’s our connection to nature, the IS-ness of her, that prompts us to give as she does, without guile. Yet in these human bodies which do not exist in perpetuity, we might well practice discernment in protecting our tender hearts. It’s unfortunate in a way, but it’s come to that for me as well. Quality of living is precious as life, itself. We then are able to maintain enough integrity to meet what challenges lie ahead of us. Many blessings, dear Sue – and again, my thanks ❤

  5. Well Bela, I suppose knowing oneself is all about who one really is as compared to who one has ‘wound up becoming’ sometimes requires one’s entire life journey.Being on that path I can say this with some conviction.And I am still discovering uncomfortable things about myself as I journey into my own dark recesses.

    With the above perspective, I can say that you have gone far. Indeed, it all boils down to one showing up as the authentic self- standing by one’s inner values and true to one’s BE-ing.

    What a lovely personal journey you have penned!


    1. Ahh, just about to click off WP this morning and saw your comment … thank you, Shakti, for your offering, as life is a journey into authenticity, is it not? Re-membering who and what we are underneath the years of conditioning. I presume you have read Don Miguel Ruiz’ “The Four Agreements?” If not, I believe you would discover great value in it. This little tome was instrumental in my understanding how that trance comes about and what to remember in the untangling.

      I am glad you are finding the courage as well to delve into the dark recesses – I am Jungian trained, and it is this Shadow integration that is key in transcending any imagined burdens of existence. I wish you, of all people, many blessings in discovering the beauty of your Being. I have witnessed it radiating through since we first met here on WordPress. ❤

  6. I love your phrase, “I learned to sit in silence, trembling at first from the sheer chaos of a mind in overdrive.” I too learned this in nature as I hope will future generations. Your descriptions of Maine immediately reminded me of Acadia National Park, one of my favorite places to “hide away” in. Thank you.

    1. I’m so glad you were able to learn to sit with nature – we are of it, after all! Or at least these bodies, replete with insincts and wisdom long forgotten until we attune … I lived 40 min from Acadia and took walks or bike rides on the Eagle Lake trail three times a week or more when I could. We lived on 60 acres of Goose Pond shorefront (part of it pictured here; some still for sale:, but at that time we didn’t have trails through the property. If the lake didn’t freeze solid enough in the winter, we were more or less restricted to the 1/2 mile of road we drove in and out on. Now there is another access road and it’s really lovely that one is now able to walk that far into the peninsulas. Aloha, and thanks for reading! 🙂

  7. I’m a little late to the party but DAMN, that was a great post. I worked out on Kentucky lake/Tennessee river for 30 years as a commercial diver. So much time out there on the water, becoming part of the habitat in a sense. I am forever linked to this river.

    I have seen many migrations coming and going of pelican, songbirds, geese/ducks, butterflies, and seen balloon spiders by the thousands falling out of the sky. Eagles and Osprey in the act of catching dinner. Kingfishers diving in. Snakes and critters and coyotes and fox. Beaver and mayflies by the boatload. I had an eagle one day just hover in the wind above my boat only about 30 feet up. He looked at me, I looked at him, and he went on his way. There is something out there to see and experience every time you go out.

    I can launch a boat, just sit there out on the water and be a happy man. Of course a little fishing doesn’t hurt either.

    The thing is though, you get out there and experience life. Tune in to the nature around around you, and you find a place within yourself, a spark that becomes a neverending desire to keep going back for more.

    No social media necessary 🙂

    1. Haha, too true – no social media. I do check into Facebook now and again as I have a vast network of friends and former clients on the east coast. Then there is the Instagram account my webmaster insisted I use for my design business – the poor thing only very occasionally gets an injection of photos – not many. I don’t get it – the fascination with a tiny screen, fluff and (too often false) flattery. But there ya go – a nature gal at heart, for sure. Would always rather be in the garden or out somewhere observing nature’s wonders.

      I’m so glad you were able to experience what you did on your boat – and I’m sure there’s a lot you haven’t mentioned here. Just the hovering eagle and your mention of an osprey reminded me of sitting down by the Union River watching the osprey fish. What incredible birds! We didn’t have Kingfishers in Maine – certainly I never saw one – but did see them growing up.

      I need water and trees for sanity the way some folks need other people. And it’s magnificent to discover a little clutch of like minded souls here on WP. I feel very blessed that way. Thanks for the visit and for taking the time to share your lovely experiences. Aloha.

  8. Bela, I love this “Sense of Place,” you can feel it reverberating through your words on the page (screen.) It’s looking back and understanding…being grateful without regret. I sense the way you must have been as a young girl in the beginning and absolutely get the soul that you are now!! Wow! Thanks for revealing YOU! ❤

    1. Aloha Lorrie, thanks for reading this piece. And yes, it’s revealing, all right 😉 The truth encapsulated. And I *am* grateful without regret, forgiving first my young self for simply not knowing any better and then forgiving those who raised me, so very young as they were. I look back at the age my parents were at those times and marvel at what it must have felt like with seven kids in their 30’s. Good grief, what does anybody know of life in their 30’s!? It’s a process, alone or with others. I realize that now. Many blessings, Lorrie, and hope your Lymes is on the road to remission. I’ve got a good friend here who is 72, and she’s survived the removal of left breast and lymph nodes and Lymes on top of that. She’s an amazing spirit who is small, quick and active – so connected to this earth. We never know what life will throw our way – it’s all in the learning, isn’t it? ❤

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