It’s no wonder that I’ve had several conversations with students and friends lately about being multi-placial, that is, being someone deeply bonded to two or more places. I’m at home (aka the dorm) in Vermont, sitting at a window at twilight, in love with the height of and light around the pines in the cooling, dimming air. At the same time, I miss Kansas — the way the light tilts differently there, the smell of the air, the sense of home. The folly is that when I’m back in Kansas, I will miss Vermont.
The thing about loving two (or more) different places is that there’s a trace of grief when in either at times. My body especially doesn’t understand why here is here, and there is there, so many hundreds of miles in between. The wild yearning to be in both places at once, to integrate what is separated by ecosystem and hours sitting in airplanes, opens into a sinkhole of sadness at times.
Yet I praise being a living being hard-wired to bond with place. I agree with David Abram’s assessment in The Spell of the Sensuous:
Our bodies have formed themselves in delicate reciprocity with the manifold textures, sounds, and shapes of an animate earth – our eyes have evolved in subtle interaction with other eyes, as our ears are attuned by their very structure to the howling of wolves and the honking of geese. To shut ourselves off from these other voices, to continue by our lifestyles to condemn these other sensibilities to the oblivion of extinction, is to rob our own senses of their integrity, and to rob our minds of their coherence. We are human only in contact, and conviviality, with what is not human.
I think about this quote often because it holds together the places I love in Abram’s call for opening our senses to what is beyond ideas of place: to the visceral and vivid light, scent, rustle and shape of the actual place. Since I started writing this, the gray-blue sky filling the space between and behind these towering trees has turned bright light blue, dimming with each moment. The trees themselves are sharper in their reaching and crossing lines and curves, black-green shadows against the sky.
I also think of something else from David Abram: how he told me once of the obvious linkage between places — the sky. “Go outside and look up. It’s the same sky I’m looking at this moment.” Especially the sky helps me feel some tentative continuation between places — the stars and sun, the clouds and clearings — and that’s enough — just enough — to hold the simultaneous yearnings to love where I am and where I’m not.