Perhaps the most psychologically significant kind of movement that an individual can make
is geographical relocation of his home.
The importance of the place where we choose to live is beyond the kisses or kicks that climate delivers, more than the landform that shapes us, greater than the soil that feeds us and the water that washes us and replenishes our vital fluids, more than the natural and human community. It is all this but more. Our place grounds us, steadies our posture to the world; it nurtures our body and spirit; it gives us the strength to be what we would be.
Simone Weil felt that “To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul.” Terry Tempest Williams says “If you know where you are, you know who you are.” And Scott Russell Sanders states that “I cannot have a spiritual center without having a geographical one; I cannot live a grounded life without being grounded in a place.”
Try to live . . . deep in nature. Be native as trees to the wood, as grass to the floor of the valley. Only then can the democratic spirit of man, individual, rise out of the confusion of communal life in the city to a creative civilization of the ground.Frank Lloyd Wright
The importance of place is overlooked, underestimated, and insufficiently acted upon. Living in the wrong place is a self-inflicted life handicap. Living in one’s right place is the foundation of a fulfilling life. And for each of us, there is an ideal place.
My bias toward rural living derives from decades spent in both cities and country. I find that a natural setting with much open space inflicts fewer falsehoods; in such a place I make fewer mistakes. I am calmed. I absorb truth. In The Community of the Future, Arthur Morgan wrote: “Mediocrity is at home in the crowd. The discriminating mind and spirit make their best growths when they have opportunity for periods of quiet and solitude.”
“This return to nature is by no means a cure-all for the ills ofcivilization, but it is one of the means of restoring the proper balance and proportion in our lives.”Liberty Hyde Bailey
The Outlook to Nature
In rural places we are compelled to observe and understand the dynamic connections between ourselves and Earth. Truth, beauty, and natural laws become self-evident.
There is something else. Cities nurture the impression that all things, including Earth itself, belong to humans, rather than humans belonging to Earth. Living with this anthropocentric mind-set stunts personal growth. The cultures of place, community and family are most sound when they reflect natural conditions. Children who help to produce family food, maintain household systems and play within a natural environment not only have a strong sense of personal worth – they know to whom and to what they belong.Self-fulfillment comes more easily at the foot of a blue-gray mountain and a few strides from a creek.
Regions of Opportunity
Water shortages, high prices, crime, bad schools, noise pollution, and community disintegration result from too many people living too close together. Congestion creates tension. Human rules try to maintain order. Good-bye freedom. No parking here. Stay off the grass. Want to build a tree house? Get a permit. Quadruplicate forms. I’m sorry, sir, you’re in the wrong line. The wrong lane, say I, a lane where quality of life has become a euphemism, where freedom is no longer appreciated because it cannot be observed-it is absent.
Our relationship with the places we know is a close bond,intricate in nature, and not abstract, not remote at all . . . The danger . . . is that whenever we make changes in our surroundings, we can all too easily shortchange ourselves . . . The way to avoid the danger is to start doing three things at once: Make sure that when we change a place, the change agreed upon nurtures our growth as capable and responsible people, while also protecting the natural environment, and developing jobs and homes enough for all.Tony Hiss
Rural living allows and encourages us to be in charge of our lives. We feel good about ourselves and have less anxiety when our activities are free and when we control basic needs – food production, utilities, safety.
And the air smells sweet and pure. Background sounds are bird songs and rustling leaves. Skylight is stars and moon.
In The Soul’s Code, James Hillman finds commonality in love of person and love of place. “A similar sense of destiny, if less sudden and less heated, and a similar devotion can mark falling for a place . . . as well as for a person. You can’t leave it, you must stay with it until it’s over, you perform ritual magic devotions to keep it going.”
There is a movie, Enchanted April, wherein four dis-enchanted English ladies pool their resources to rent for one month a villa in Italy. The unhappiness of all four is replaced by new and renewed love inspired by the beauty of the place – the trees, shrubs, flowers, views. The theme is timeless and persevering because it is a truism: whatever our psychological state, we are improved by the influence of a natural environment.
The place where a person lives dramatically affects his happiness and success in life. Living in a place which is not right for you can be incredibly handicapping.Thomas F. Bowman, George A. Giuliani, M. Ronald Minge
Finding Your Best Place to Live in America
Beyond psychological nurture, a good natural environment raises intelligence. Really. Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley verified that rat brains grow larger when the animals are placed in an enriched environment. The brains of rats raised in a semi-natural outdoor environment grow larger still. So our quest is for a place where rat brains grow like crazy. Onward!