Voicing 'A sense of place'
Workshop on The Art of Writing
run by Prof. Jem Poster
Albert Hans - assignment # 4 dealt with on 8th August, 2006
Subject-matter/Theme/Topic: Voicing A sense of place
The woods round my hometown – my second self
From early childhood on I have felt drawn irresistibly to those majestic and mysterious looking woods surrounding the little town I was born in.
Long before school attendance became compulsory for me I had innumerable occasions on which to taste the magic spell of the unknown hidden away in those woods. Daring into them, playing “Red Indians” striking back against some whites that had intruded their territory or just playing hide and seek with a few peers of mine was what startled and yet enriched me at the same time. The climbing of trees required a skill one could impress one’s peers with. It was an activity apt to push one’s limits to the utmost, to test one’s physical capacity and train one’s sense of instinct. Thus it was a preparatory course for adult life, a first important step on my way into maturity.
Now that I’ve grown old, experienced, and a little bit wise, too, hopefully, I yearn back to where I once used to play. Though those days are gone, they are not gone for good. There is something inexplicable that lures me back to them, which is more than just some nice reminiscences from years gone by. It is as if I still belonged to where I once got planted, as if those woods had become part of myself, a sort of second self, second home having become indispensable to me.
There are a number of reasons for which I now roam those places still so dear to me.
In the first instance I can get back some peace of mind I have lost during a strenuous working day. From the peaceful scenery around me I can sift in a lot of tranquility to soothe my soul and restore the balance of nature in me. Evened out this way I let my mind wander. It is amazing at how many good thoughts I strike on these hikes. I remember coming back one evening years ago, filled with a source of ideas that enabled me to jot down the gist of a speech I had to give on my school’s graduation day. It worked out exceptionally well. I was applauded with sheer incessant applause from my students. What a rewarding night that was thanks to some invisible helpers speaking to me through an endless chain of wind, colours and trees in motion.
The foremost reason for which I seek those woods is that it is there I can be at home with myself, ‘chez moi’, so to speak. To find my true inner self I often have to visit specific locations within the range of my walks, depending on the mood I am in on a particular day. It takes distinct spots, shades and angles framed by the size, species and certain indefinite features of not more than a handful of trees, shrubs, bushes to make me feel fine and at rest with myself. I just don’t know how to explain, but it is that way that it happens, comes about. These happy moments are like second home-comings. It is in these small, marked spaces in which I find to myself. My germane, innate self gets re-established there. It is there that I don’t have to play any kind of role imposed upon me – through expectations or demands of society - just to please someone, a role that doesn’t suit me, is alien to me. Instead I can be quite myself. What a relief! What a re-birth of myself!
- These woods, a spiritual as well as concrete refuge into myself -
Whose home this is I guess I know,
That sweet and lovely are its hills.
I wonder if it’s made of woods,
This place of eternal looks in absent woe.
Yet a lot more miles do I have to go
To get to Heaven the best way I know.
Those woods will help me on my hike
Until, pilgrim-like, I find my final hide.
[Composed in analogy to Robert Frost’s poem Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening]