According to Wikipedia: “Placemaking is a term that began to be used in the 1970s by architects and planners to describe the process of creating squares, plazas, parks, streets and waterfronts that will attract people because they are pleasurable or interesting. Landscape often plays an important role in the design process.”
I believe placemaking can extend beyond public spaces into personal ones as well.
When I was growing up we moved so many times because of my dad’s work. Somewhere along the line, I lost my sense of place. My parents would buy a home, make it beautiful, sell it, and then seek out a new space in which to create. My father was a nomad at heart and both my parents loved the challenge of turning something humdrum into something lovely. Although I could see my parents were happy with their interior decorating and landscaping to attract interested buyers, there were times I felt completely lost and uprooted. I simply wanted a place to call home.
As I grew older I realized that placemaking was a many-layered thing. It doesn’t have to be about rooting yourself in a single spot forever; it’s about valuing and nurturing the place you happen to be living in at the moment.
Maybe the old adage is true, “Home is where the heart is.”
A place isn't just about the building you live in, it’s an accumulation of layers. The layers include ancestral experience, the vista, the lives of people who have gone on before, the stories of the land, the animals that grazed and hunted, the plants and trees, the local spirits and the genius loci. By acknowledging the many layers of the landscape, your personal connection to a place can become more meaningful.
Here are a few simple ideas to consider to get you started on your own path to placemaking:
Plant a beautiful tree in your yard to thank the trees that lived there before, honor the people who worked the land, make the local spirits’ home inviting , make your neighborhood attractive, develop the landscape, acknowledge the wildlife that came before and will come after, and to gift the people of the future who will enjoy the beauty of your tree.
If there is a grand, old tree in one of your favorite parks, clear away any rubbish and offer it a drink of clean water. The tree will be grateful and your gift might quench the thirst of the hot and tired poet who sat under it 200 years ago awaiting his muse. Sit and listen; maybe the muse will come and visit you because of your placemaking efforts.
Seed bomb the derelict fenced off building lot you walk by on your way to work every day. (Wildflower seeds are hardy.) Instead of frowning at the dereliction and dirt every time you pass by, you will smile when your effort takes effect and the flowers start to bloom. The butterflies and bees will thank you for it. The landscape will be revitalized.
Find a smooth stone that feels pleasing in the palm of your hand. Write a word on it that strums your soul, a word like Bliss for example. Wiki defines bliss as a state of profound satisfaction, happiness, and joy, a constant state of mind, undisturbed by gain or loss. Since words have power, imagine the word radiating an aura of blissfulness, touching anyone or anything that happens to pass by. Keep it in your home, carry it with you when you travel, or leave it on the window ledge of your favorite coffee shop for another person to discover and enjoy. If you are lucky enough to live near a beach, leave the stone and its message to be absorbed and radiated by the landscape and the far-reaching waves.
What do I do? When I am hungering to connect with the landscape I leave a little gift (flower seeds, sage, a shiny penny, a poem etc.) and pick up a paintbrush. When the finished painting hangs in my house, even for only a little while, I feel not only connected to the landscape, but to the many layers that make up the place I call home.
When we feel connected to, and comforted by a place, we give ourselves permission and freedom to be inspired and productive. Spend some time celebrating the landscape where you live at this very moment. Your heart and soul will thank you for it.
I wish you all a blissful and bountiful autumn my Wild Ones. Thank you so much for being part of this journey. In the meantime, if you think of any other creative ideas about nurturing yourself and your environment, please feel free to share in the comments below!