Places, Feelings and Learning. Learning Serenity.

Preface: There’s an announcement about the October Ho‘ohana at the very end of this post.

Every time I go to a brand new place I seem to return home with some feeling for that locale’s sense of place. It’s sort of an invisible, ever-present to-do list which must be checked off in some way before the visit ends. If not, it feels that my time is incomplete there. Dick Richards and Dave Rothacker very insightfully picked this out about me in their recent discussion after Dick’s review of my book Managing with Aloha. (Again Dick, my mahalo.) In far less complimentary words, my family will chide that’s “one of the things” that is strange about me.

Sometimes the experience is pretty profound, like the day I stepped outside the door of my flight to the Big Island in 1989 on what was to be a short visit, a temporary job to help open a new hotel there, the Ritz-Carlton, Mauna Lani. The last time I’d been to the Big Island had been 14 years before and I’d felt no connection: In fact, I got into a car accident and was med- evac’d off the island in a chopper. However this time, I felt it instantly as I stepped into the island air, and before I even made it down the stairs (Still today, there are no jetways at the Kona airport.) There was this feeling of warmth that had nothing to do with the sun, and this feeling of rightness with the unmistakable pull of belonging. Before I even went to baggage claim I called my husband and asked him how he’d feel about moving to the Big Island to raise our two children there. I had no idea of what would be involved in what I was asking him to do. It was simply the right place for us, the only place, and I knew it.

I do believe this silent language I can have with places is a big part of the reason I love to travel as much as I do; any inconvenience in the getting to and back from that place is fully worth it. I love traveling by myself because of it. Much as I love my family they are not good traveling companions for me because if questions are unanswered, I change the best-laid plans we’ve made without hesitation, preferring to go on history jaunts, or lurking in coffeehouses to get into “chance” conversations with local elders. I want to know what was in the place before what’s there now — I choose those words deliberately: ‘in the place’ and not just ‘at’ it. I have to figure out what I am feeling beyond what I am seeing, or it continues to divert all my attention. I’ll sleep well, but it’ll wake me up at ungodly hours of the morning: I can’t wait to lace up my shoes for my habitual morning run. This traveling in mom’s place-directed spirit does not always sit that well with my kids and a husband who normally feels his plane fare would have been better spent in a myriad of other ways in the first place.

Well, I’ve become very appreciative of my “weirdness.” It’s something I thank my spirit for and my ancestors for, however they managed to instill it in me. I’ve learned never to take “land voices” for granted. I’ve learned to wallow in them, and to learn from them. They never spook me because I don’t associate them with people. Place is different. Calming.

Most often it is the land itself that connects with me. Other times it comes from smaller places, but ones that are very distinctive to me in their character, and in their ability to nurture something within us.

It was this second kind of connection that resulted when I visited Prescott Arizona recently, first in June, and again in August.

Although it is a heritage-rich town, it wasn’t specifically Prescott. It wasn’t Arizona, as textured as her culture. It was the library at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University where my son is now going to college.

What they have done there, is build that library in an environment for learning that goes beyond the books, the computers, the resources, the very high-tech models and simulators (you needn’t have old history to have sense of place) the walls, and yes, even beyond the people, as fascinating as the ERAU community is. When you are standing in that library — and it’s not a quiet library, it’s a very active and vibrant one — you know you have to learn something; you have to become a student again. Oddly, what you learn is not really important. You’ve just got to have the learning experience. You’ve got to let it happen to you. You’ve got to give in to learning.

When I first left Prescott in June I’d started to sense it, but I didn’t quite get it. I was distracted a bit in watching all the kids, and in seeing the concentration in their faces. Then I finally figured out that was part of it — it wasn’t concentration, it was the serenity of being in the right place, at the right time, for the right reason. Learning serenity.

In August part of the parent teacher orientation was held there in the library, and I could have sat there in that uncomfortable hard-backed wooden chair forever. I was quite rude to the speaker, the Dean of Students, for I ignored him completely, and wrote our September Ho‘ohana on the back of his handout. Maybe he thought I was taking a lot of notes ” that’s a nicer thought.

I didn’t tell you this story back then because it just had to play out. Or maybe I didn’t because I couldn’t have explained it well enough for it not to be too weird for you too. On September 1st, I just wanted to stoke the fire, knowing what kind of people we are in our Ho‘ohana Community: Learners. You have validated every feeling I got from my sense of place in the ERAU Library. Mahalo.

The journey we all took this month on Lifelong Learning was just meant to be. And how glorious it has been. The writing that has been shared here this month has touched me in so many different ways. Not only the authors, the comments too. Amazing. Community.

I’m not quite satisfied with the recap I’d promised you today, and I’ll post it tomorrow, okay? I must do more on it to shine the brightest possible light on what our guest authors have shared with us this month. Learning serenity has a way of being too content with softness, and I’m trying to get her to kick up her heels with me in this jubilation I’m feeling right now.

I must ask you another favor, your understanding. I’m not going to post our October Ho‘ohana until Monday, October 3rd. It’s been in drafts for quite some time now, for I’d kicked it to the back burner when I scribbled my September Ho‘ohana on the back of that ERAU Parent Orientation Program. It’ll wait just a couple more days just fine. My learning from all of you is not quite done. Lōkahi forum recap tomorrow, September monthend recap on the weekend, and October Ho‘ohana Monday.

Mahalo nui for your patience with me,



  1. says

    “I want to know what was in the place before what’s there now — I choose those words deliberately: ‘in the place’ and not just ‘at’ it.”
    Not more than three minutes before I read this post I was in another room thinking about what was on our land before the development. This thought was not all that unusual however, because I think about stuff like it all the time.
    I used to hike in areas around Cleveland. I bought books written by experts on the area and learned that it has never been developed. The closest anyone ever came to living in the area was the early 1800’s. I hiked in these woods for over twenty years and always felt a connection to these people.
    I think at this stage I am just a novice to verbalizing my thoughts about connections to the land – for they’ve been there all along.
    Rosa and I have had great conversations on the term “value.” I have been quite evangelistic about Rosa, MWA and TS out here in cyberspace. So, like the retail and food establishments have watered down the term value to cents off, I hope the following rant will not be taken any less serious.
    Sorry, rant too long for comment section. See the blog:

  2. says

    Connections to the Land

    This post is about value. Dick Richards, author of Come Gather Round, talks about values that are connected to the land. Dick was discussing Rosa Say’s book, Managing With Aloha and how Rosa also feels this connection to the land.

  3. Judie says

    Rosa et al,
    I am, once again, teaching high school. After 17 years as a high school administrator, I have chosen to once again teach, relate my experience as a master teacher, university instructor, and lifelong learner, to 9th grade English students. What a joy! What a delight! What surprises! During the course of instruction in the usual grammar, mechanics, assignments geared to response to literature, it has amazed me how very insightful and wise are these 14-year-old children/adults we call 9th graders. I still guide educational-admin. students through the research-based analytical courses focused upon preparing them to be leaders of public schools. And, once again, I am delighted to report that children/semi-adults- have so much to say, so much to give, so much information processing to let us know that they truly understand what kind of world they live in. I have been renewed by emails and notes sent by parents, telling me that life’s situations have influenced their assistance of their children in completing assignments e.g., “My husband passed away recently and I don’t know how to fix the printer; so my son doesn’t have his essay today.” At the same time, in response to a “district writing assessment: ‘Money is the root of all evil,’ I found, while spending the weekend pouring through adolescent views of life as they saw it, that they have, on average, a very realistic, yet hopeful view of the world, and a true hope for mankind. That’s exactly why I returned. When there is time (for the curriculum demands are profuse), I ask for dialogue or written response to questions that your website seems to provide for me just when I need it. I plan to use Sean Covey’s Seven Habits…” as lead-ins for conversations among students.
    I “found” you when searching for systems thinking, interdependent, globally-conscious Internet sites. I have been watching, reading for several months. My dissertation was devoted to research re how public school teachers might adopt applied systems processes such as dialogue to consensus and the design team process. Thanks you for provide a venue for continuous conversation, theory, practice, and values that seem to be important to the world’s people. I just have to mention that during a wonderful trip to Belfast, NI, this past June, one in which I presented research at The Queen’s University, I was so thrilled to stand in queues waiting for restaurants and being asked if I were an American. The northern Irish were so interested in our relationships with children and in teaching value systems that would work globally. What a treasure that you are doing the same. Thank you for your work. JP
    How did we find each other?

  4. says

    Judie, your students are blessed to have you.
    How did we find each other?
    I think our values did that good deed for us, and we trusted in them enough to follow their lead in revealing our like-minded thinking.
    The questioning you have mentioned is such a rich practice for us all; and through the pleasurable company of this learning community we have we will continue to do so.
    Keep us posted on your time with our youth!
    Aloha e, a hui hou.

  5. says

    Blog Action Day 2007: Responsibility for your Sense of Place

    what this is all about On October 15th – Blog Action Day, bloggers around the web will unite to put a single important issue on everyone’s mind. In its inaugural year, Blog Action Day will be co-ordinating bloggers to tackle