my little valley, you have such small hands… I knew that I should love you

March 13, 2010

I am fascinated by landscape values and environmental literacy, and how both of these things relate to attachment to place.  The comments of a girl I used to know in Dunedin, a long time ago, who has for the past 7 years been an important spokesperson for the New Zealand Department of Conservation, drive this home pretty well:

“I moved to Aoraki Mt Cook National Park when I was almost 7 years old.  We lived in a house tucked up against the mountains at the entrance to the Governor’s Bush walk, where my family would often wander.

I woke up every morning to that incredible and awe-inspiring view of Mt Sefton and Mt Tasman towering over us, and watched the sunset turn the peaks a dusky peach shade in the evening.

“I learned about the insects, the birds, the names of clouds and, while not paying much attention to it as a child, the park was indelibly inked on my heart and soul, so that when I grew up, my path was already decided.

“I then spent five years in Twizel, with the Mackenzie Basin as my playground.  The land use change and the water issues in that special, amazing place are another thing I intend to be involved with.”

I would really like to do some research into this, I guess qualitative interviews, plus place attachment theory.  It seems like a really promising (and fun) Masters topic.  Possibly even PhD.  And it takes me home to where I feel happiest, Geography.  The applications are vast, too, I think.  I need to think about them more, and try and map it out. But most conservationists have a place that is very special to them, that they feel connected to, that shapes their identity and their politics.  Writers have the same.  I think it explains a lot about how environmental attitudes form.

Really, though… I just love the idea of going home.  And I love the idea of interviewing people about the places that are important to them, the terrains that are imprinted across and woven through their autobiography.

Do you have a place that is special to you, that has shaped how you feel about the non-human world around you, and our relationship to it?  The place that is always there in the back of your mind, remembered with fondness, that you always hope will still be there?  If so, I would love to hear about it!

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5 Responses to “my little valley, you have such small hands… I knew that I should love you”

  1. Southernrata Says:

    This reminds me (among other things) of the maori mihimihi – my mountain is Rangitumau, my river is Ruamahanga, etc. That simple affirmation brings back so many complex and beautiful memories that extend no further than the lawn of my childhood home, or at the least, the 600 acres I used to roam over with impunity.

  2. Niki Says:

    I think this sounds like a really interesting subject! What is your degree on?
    Unforunately I don’t have such a place, but perhaps I can still find one?

    x

    • Jenn Says:

      I have been subterraneanly obsessed with this idea for most of my life. And surprisingly little has been written about it so far :)

      I just finished honours in English at the University of Sydney (I think we have mutual friends! Stefan Solomon is one of my good friends, from when I was doing English), but my BA was in Geography. I don’t know what to do a PhD in, or where. I like the idea of staying in Sydney, but overseas is a tempting option. But first I need to work out if I belong in English, Geography or Cultural Studies (or some other area entirely!)

  3. Niki Says:

    Oh wow how funny – yes I went to school with Stefan. How did you know?

    Hope you figure out what to do after uni! It’s tough!


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