As a way of coping with the frequent relocations required by my career in ministry, I learned early on to be largely inattentive to place. No sense in getting attached to a particular home or a particular neighborhood, I figured, since I would not be there for long. Though some locales have been easier to settle into than others, I have been able to find both positives and negatives in each place I lived.
This obliviousness to place, while making it less stressful for me whenever a relocation was in order, has meant that I probably missed the benefits of learning to love a specific spot on the earth. So I am trying to correct this gap by paying more attention to the setting in which I find myself, guided by the ideas of an area of theology called spiritual geography. According to spiritual geography, each of us tends, over the course of a lifetime, to find certain natural environments resonant with meaning that cannot simply be explained by experiences we had in that setting. For instance, some will feel most at peace near the ocean, while others seek out mountains whenever they need renewal. Deserts have been crucial in many spiritual traditions as places where a seeker is more likely to encounter the sacred mystery. And the vastness of the plains inspires deep reflection for individuals particularly desiring to feel spaciousness and freedom.
The particularity of place is a value that seems increasingly lost in myriad ways, as our culture turns more and more to encouraging global connections in a fashion that tends to minimize the uniqueness of the setting in which any of us may live. The messages we hear, whether from religions or from advertisers or from politicians, tell us that we all want the same thing, in much the same form, at much the same time. And while a focus on sameness is always important, especially as it can help overcome polarization, too prolonged a focus on sameness blurs the specifics of place and prevents our experiencing how a particular spot on earth may be meaningful for us.
Be grateful for those landscapes that have made you who you are, just as you cherish the people who have made you who you are. In more ways than we know, the earth has been, continues to be, truly our mother.