Think of the long trip home.
Should we have stayed at home and thought of here?
Where should we be today?
Elizabeth Bishop – Questions of Travel
This summer I’ve travelled to different places, both new and familiar. Now I’m happy to be home but I still think of places I’ve been.
In the last few weeks I’ve spent time in other landscapes that I used to call home and still feel viscerally familiar and beautiful. There are landscapes which become part of us, part of our inner landscapes. Just as we imprint the places we pass through, so they imprint us, leaving a trace which we can explore later in writing.
In Autobiography in Landscape: Telling our stories through the places and landscapes of our hearts, minds and souls in Derbyshire this September participants explored places that have been significant to them and also the landscape where the workshop took place – using the present as a doorway to the past and re-discovering aspects of the self in those other landscapes.
When the sun came out we went into the woods across the road to write. It was a different experience to write in nature, to observe closely the scene around us, from the ants to the water, the sounds and smells as well as the sights.
Journal prompt: Write outside. Take your notebook and pen and go out into the landscape. If wild nature isn’t within reach, find a park or a garden. Write what you observe through your senses (sight, smell, sound, touch). Notice details that you don’t normally see as you walk or pass through these places, distracted by other thoughts or conversations. Write about your experience of the place in the present moment.
Some participants found that writing in the woods reminded them of other woods – by scraping away the present landscape they were able to find memories of other woods layered beneath. We might call this a palimpsest – where one landscape has been overlaid by others in our memory and we can uncover those which lie below.
Journal prompt: Allow yourself to make connections to other places in your life. Follow your own memory trip to other places that have been significant in some way in your life. Find yourself in them and what they mean to you.
What are the places that have been important to you? Share your significant landscapes here.