Monday, September 07, 2009

Kimmel Harding Nelson Residency: Day 1

Historical Map of Nebraska City, Nebraska

I subscribe to the Whitmanesque belief that place is presence, that our individual minds are shaped and informed by the ecology, the rhythms, and the atmosphere of our environment. But what can you learn of a place, any place, in just two weeks?

My stay in Nebraska City amounts to a prolonged layover. During this short time, what might I intuit from the town's style and voice, or from the steady push of the great, brown river that draws the town's eastern edge? Certainly, I can look thoughtfully at the people I meet and the birds I encounter; I can listen, as I do now, to the calling of crickets underneath my window; I can contemplate the regional topography and the land's history; I can ask lots of questions and take lots of notes; still, I will not know Nebraska City.

As David Abram writes in "The Air Aware," an essay published in the September/October 2009 issue of Orion,
"Only by living for many moons in one place, my peripheral senses tracking seasonal changes in the local plants while the scents of the soil steadily seep in through my pores, only over time can the intelligence of a place lay claim upon my person."
And what does this notion of place as state-of-mind intimate about my current choice of home? I'm fond of New York City, but how strange that a boy shaped by the salt marshes and fields of the Virginia's coastal plain, and informed by the fishing and farming communities that hold on there, should, as an adult, call home a metropolis with a dominant culture that is almost entirely detached from seasonal turnings of the soil!

Even if I am unable to locate the quintessence of Nebraska City in these two weeks, or to locate myself in it, I look forward to the time away from New York City. I'm eager to look, to listen, and, as David Abram would put it, to breathe in what I can.

Image credit: image ripped, appropriately enough, from Epodunk: The Power of Place website

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