Sense of Place…

A little under two weeks ago, I went on a week long trip driving out east.  Throughout the whole expedition–I ended up driving a bit over 2800 miles going from Wisconsin  to Pittsburgh to DC to NYC to Charlottseville, VA and back again.

In all of that driving, I noticed places… really noticed them.  In particular, it was on day 6 or so of our voyage that the sense of place–at least of the places we were moving through–struck me.  First, as we were driving out of New York city and driving down I-95 (west branch) through upper New Jersey, I was hit by the relative emptiness of it.  Although you would drive through a solid industrial area with tons of oil refineries and then see a huge clump of apartment/condo complexes at some point–in between those were large fields of pretty much nothing but swampy terrain/marshland and of meadows… And then–as we drove past the football stadium–aptly named the Meadowlands–it sunk home how bizarre and yet how typical this situation was.  Right outside of NYC–one of the most densely populated places in the US–you had a bunch of pretty much ignored “nature.”

Now–I don’t know why this should surprise me–perhaps because I  assumed that every inch of terrain within 20 miles of NYC would be covered with apartment complexes–but it did, and it made me realize how moving through these areas can give you a better sense of space.  Really–although NYC has millions and millions of people in it–when you do the math, you don’t actually need that much space to pack people in if you build up.  Relatedly, I remember someone mentioning back years ago that if you packed each individual person within a 8m^3 cube –which is a lot of space for one person(25’x25’x 25′)–you could fit all of humanity within the Grand Canyon –with room to spare..

Thus–really–even in places like NYC–there are going to be empty areas nearby.. areas that are just part of the environment that we have more or less of an impact on…

This was one way that I got a sense of place on the trip…

… and later that day, I got my second sense.. and that was after we had made our way around the horrific traffic of rush hour Washington, DC and turned off of I-95 to start driving through some of the smaller highways–I think the main road we were on was called the “Constitution Highway”–that roamed through the Northern Virginia…

I must say–I found the countryside there astoundingly beautiful.  Gently rolling hills with little valleys and farms tucked between lush forests…

… and what it made me immediately think was: “Wow, I can see how and why two huge armies could fight a 4 year war over this territory 150 years ago.”

Happy thoughts, I know.

But, in many ways, I am serious.  I see how that kind of territory would have been a central and powerful geographical and cultural area to control.  It also occurred to me that it made sense why four of the first five presidents came from the lands in or around that area of Virginia–because it is a lush and bountiful area…

It impressed me so much that I seriously consider it one of the places that I would move to to set up a permanent base of operations for the rest of my life…

This is the second sense of place that I had that day… and it was a deep one..

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About Prof. Woland

I contain multitudes. Come meet us.
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One Response to Sense of Place…

  1. Brent says:

    A similar calculation is made in The Little Prince:

    “Men occupy a very small place upon the Earth. If the two billion inhabitants who people its surface were all to stand upright and somewhat crowded together, as they do for some big public assembly, they could easily be put into one public square twenty miles long and twenty miles wide. All humanity could be piled up on a small Pacific islet.”

    I worked out the math once, myself, and the numbers work. Of course, that was 1943.

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