Power of Place Guest Column

What is Power of Place?

This is my guest column in which fellow writers and travelers share how a particular locality touched and perhaps even transformed them – the power of place. Below are links to more than 35 eloquent, observant and heartfelt homages to places as varied as Armenia, Bhutan, Cyprus, Ethiopia, France, Guatemala, Idaho, New Mexico, Melbourne, Panama, Quebec, Scotland, Spain, Vanuatu and Venice.

The meaning of Place is as varied as we are at any given moment. It can inform our identity or represent our aspirations; it can serve as a sanctuary or a challenge; it can mean coming home or running away. Whether an old haunt or a dream destination, Place can be a catalyst for memories, change, renewal, reconciliation, and hope. Place can mean common ground or diverging paths, a fresh start or a return to one’s roots. Place can symbolize peace or adventure, wonder or affirmation. Place can incite or fulfill longing.

The very name of Place can be profoundly evocative — of an ideal, like Eden or Brigadoon; a moment in time, such as Woodstock or Waterloo; the human spirit, like Mount Everest or Ellis Island; or tragedy, such as Pompeii or Auschwitz.

It’s certainly true that our internal landscape has an influence on our impressions of Place — as in “wherever you go, there you are.” Yet a physical change of scenery can often provide much-needed distance and perspective to see anew an old problem or familiar situation. And, Place can sometimes call to the surface emotions that have long been dormant — it doesn’t necessarily take a Sedona vortex.

Since man’s earliest days as an upright being, we have been hard-wired to roam, and our ramblings have been characterized by curiosity and restlessness, combined with a desire to connect and communicate. We travel for myriad reasons, ranging from migrations and missions to caravans and crusades, pilgrimages and safaris to treks, walkabouts and wanderlust. Seeking is part of the human condition and we love to share news of our journeys, whether that transmission takes the form of cave paintings, the 230-foot Bayeux Tapestry, or grade school reports of “How I Spent My Summer Vacation.”

Some of the most magical and compelling figures in literature are those associated with epic journeys, both those wielding the pen and created by it — the Magi to Marco Polo, Beowulf to Bilbo Baggins, and Ulysses to Kerouac. Chances are that you, too, have a story of Place that either transformed or reassured you, made you laugh or cry, tested your resourcefulness or taught you something about yourself or others. I’m certain that one of the accounts below will bring you back to a Place that inspired powerful memories of your own.

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