Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The place within

Several years ago I quoted here a line from Richard Nelson's The Island Within, an account of life in Sitka, Alaska.: "As time went by, I realized that the particular place I'd chosen was less important than the fact that I'd chosen a place and focused my life around it."

I once had the pleasure of visiting with Rick and his wife in their beautiful home near cold Alaskan waters. Their simple house was filled with bright plants, crafts of all kinds, delicious home grown (and hunted) food. It was the sort of place that made you want to pull up stakes and move to the wild Northwest. Which was exactly the last thing that Rick and Nita wanted. Rick is coy in his book about the location of the place he writes about. Enjoy my book, he seems to say, but stay home.

Twice now I've gone and settled in places off the beaten track, seeking a life that is simpler and closer to nature than the one I live in New England. For the first ten years we lived here in the west of Ireland, we didn't have electricity, or telephone, and even our water supply was precarious. Our cottage was furnished entirely with the crafts of local carpenters, potters, weavers and artists. That was twenty-eight years ago. The place has since been discovered. It is now a Cape Cod of Ireland.

The same thing happened in Exuma. Our scruffy little island with wonderful people and long, empty white beaches has been discovered.

It was inevitable, I suppose. In any case, we are too old to go looking again for another "Outermost House" or "Tinker Creek." Our home in New England of 43 years, with lightning-fast broadband and access to the best medical services in the country is looking more and more attractive. Time to take to heart what Rick Nelson says in his book: "What makes a place special is the way it buries itself inside the heart, not whether it's flat or rugged, rich or austere, wet or arid, gentle or harsh, warm or cold, wild or tame. Every place, like every person, is elevated by the love and respect shown toward it, and by the way in which its bounty is received."