Deborah Tall's From Where We Stand
In her book, From Where We Stand, Deborah Tall, tells us the story of coming to Geneva, New York, to begin teaching. It is a personal account of coming to terms with a new and foreign place. It gives us the chance of watching her learn about landscapes, people, and history. It moves through time, through her own life, and especially through motherhood. In the end, and after more than a decade, she gives us the signs of what it means to live out of and within the place where you are.
Perhaps the poet is uniquely qualified to consider this issue of place. When Martin Heidegger attempted to understand "place" and "home," he turned to poets like Friedrich Hölderlin. Similarly, we can read poems and essays by Gary Snyder --- for instance, The Practice of the Wild or A Place in Space --- or N. Scott Momaday --- for instance, The Man Made of Words. Wallace Stegner's Where the Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Springs is a collection of essays about "living and writing in the West." John Brinkerhoff Jackson takes us on a tour of American landscapes in his book A Sense of Place, a Sense of Time. And Wes Jackson's Becoming Native to This Place is based on his personal experiences of settling in a little formerly abandoned Kansas farm town, to establish his Land Institute.
Virtually all of these writers share a common feeling that mainstream American society has lost its roots. With our extreme mobility we have lost connectedness with the land. We tend to avoid what is unique and defining of landscapes and to look for what is common or universal. When we drive through small communities, we stop to eat at the Burger King or McDonalds instead of investigating Aunt Sue's Loggers' Cafe. In a way, we have invented "everyplace" by universalizing the common things that we expect and seem to need --- familiar motel facades, common fast food menus, universal cable TV access, etc. But what these authors question is whether "everyplace" is really a "place" at all, hence, whether it serves the needs of being grounded in a place, knowing a landscape, feeling the history of habitation, belonging.
Here are some personal observations. When Mammoth Mountain was aggressively developed as a ski resort, in the early 70s, traffic began picking up on US395, running through the town of Bishop.