The term topophilia was coined by the geographer Yi-Fu Tuan of the University of Wisconsin and is defined as the affective bond with one’s environment—a person’s mental, emotional, and cognitive ties to a place. During a transition we need topophilia.
A strong sense of place can help us weather the storm of questions that emerge during a transition….where will I work? how will I pay my rent? who will be my friends? or one of my favorites stated by many a millennial and baby boomer…”What do I want to be when I grow up? ”
Aldo Leopold, like contemporary nature essayists Gary Snyder and Annie Dillard, see places as defined not merely by its appearance and topographical features. “It must be recognized for its essential qualities, those forces that give a place its life, its ‘beingness.’ ” Our topophilia places often give us our “beingness” during transition.
During transition we often find ourselves renaming our sense of place. Questions about home, work and community abound. One one way to ground ourselves during a time of transition is to tap into our topophilia. We need to recognize our deepest sense of place.
Which landscape grounds you? What place nourishes you? What topographical feature soothes your soul. What place consoles your heart or inspires your mind?
In the past few years, I’ve moved three times. I have found that what grounds me during all these transitions is having a strong sense of place, topophilia. My sense of place is not Vermont, Minnesota, Nova Scotia, Gloucester, MA or any of the other places I’ve lived or have family. I am home when I find a trail that takes me to that transitional place where water meets the land. My emotional, cognitive and mental health is on solid ground at that edge, the place where land and water meet. I gain the most clarity on those coastal trails where waves crash against the rocks. This is my topophilia.
What is your topophilia that will ground you in a transition?
I want to thank Ben Joyce for giving me insight into this term. Ben and I met at the Sausalito Art Festival where he was displaying his Abstract Topophilia. Enjoy his art work while you think about your topophilia!