In the course of my own short lifetime, I believe that one of my most important lessons learned has been Sense of Place, the feel of a place, and perhaps more significantly, our feel for a place. I believe that our sense of place is as intrinsic to the quality of our lives as family, health, mindfulness and spirit, those oh so necessary elements of our personal well-being, because it’s about our sense of belonging somewhere.
I’ve also learned how fleeting sense of place can be, physically. Living through brush fire, earthquakes and tsunamis have been highly emotional chapters of my history, and they have taught me that not even that “solid earth beneath our feet” is long-lasting: It can change instantly, and dramatically.
I’ve been visiting our coastal areas these past three days, in the aftermath of the Sendai earthquake and tsunami which also reached our islands, realizing how much of our shoreline will no longer look the way it once did. It’s hard to explain why I feel so compelled to visit these places and see the damage, for mostly I just sit somewhere for a while and cry. All I can tell you is that it’s just what you do when these places have defined your home.
Like so many of you are experiencing, I’m sure, my emotions have felt like they’ve been shredded, tumbled in the surging waters. On the one hand, I cannot begin to imagine what the people of Japan are going through despite all the news coverage enabling us to share in it: To say so would be a lie, for their devastation is just too large to comprehend without being there, personally affected by it. On the other, I feel such a strong bond to them, for we both are island people. We understand how our earth must shift sometimes, and we know how a swell becomes not wave, but surge.
Respect and unstoppable awe curbs any anger — and so completely, that gentle softening (that there’s no anger at all) feeling strange, and strangely right at the same time. But we are not stone; we’re human. We have to feel something… So I cry, and I pray, just letting both things happen, allowing myself to be human as feelings run the gamut without understood reason. I can’t control them, and I’ve stopped trying to. Giving in, just like our shoreline had to.
I started taking some photos of the damage, but I had to stop; they were too painful. Not sure what I would do with them anyway.
So these, instead, are photos of places as I’d captured them before Friday morning’s tsunami, knowing they will one day return to their beauty again, changed certainly, but resilient. For after all, I had taken them in a sense of place created for me, for us, after the tsunami of 1946… sense of place starts again, and now.