This is home:
This is my landscape. (No, I don’t live in the woods unfortunately. This is actually a five minute drive away). It’s right on the edge of the Carolinian forest zone of Southern Ontario. I’ve gotten to know many of the trees, and the flowers, insects, amphibians and birds that live here. I know it in all its seasons and moods, and we have spent plenty of time alone together.
But I have other landscapes too.
I also love dense ancient forests, with thick soft moss growing on rocks, surrounded by ferns and peppered with dancing spots of sunlight. I love the musty smell of the rotting logs and rich earth. There is one forest in particular that we visit every year, as I did for many years as a child. I talked about it in this post.
I also love rocky shorelines. I love the sound of gentle waves lapping on rocks, and the
piercing call of seagulls. I love the feeling of the breeze that comes off the water. On a recent trip to the city where I was born and raised for 13 years, it was so much fun to look at all the places I spent time growing up. We visited my old houses, and those of my grandparents. We found landmarks that were so familiar, and yet felt so foreign, like they were from a dream. We walked along the rocky shoreline I knew as a child and searched for flat round rocks for skipping.
I’ve long been interested in sense of place, and how people grow to love different
landscapes. While I prefer the shady protection deep inside a deciduous forest, my husband loves the blueberries and coarse junipers of rocky landscapes.
Unfortunately we didn’t get any pictures of said blueberries or junipers. Please picture them on top of this cliff.
The landscapes of our childhoods are so incredibly formative.
When I did my research with grade five students, I came to the (not unexpected) conclusion that they preferred highly groomed parkland areas (McAllister, C., 2011). This conclusion made sense in a couple of ways. First, parkland like this provides the potential for both protection and the ability to see long distances (Orians & Heerwagen, 1992). Some theories say we are evolved to prefer this landscape. In addition, children have been trained to understand and trust these areas. They know what to do with grass. Students liked groomed parkland significantly more than dense forest or even woodland trails, which were often feared and mistrusted. In a society that often defines outdoor time as synonymous with programmed sports, this didn’t surprise me. After all, people do prefer familiar landscapes (Balling & Falk, 1982). So, likely this preference is a combination of nature and nurture.
But, this makes me wonder how many people in future generations will value natural greenspaces, if they don’t play an important role in the early formative years, and the predominant feeling towards them is fear.
We might enjoy visiting foreign landscapes, and grow to love them, but there is still something special about home, isn’t there?
Tell me about your landscapes.
Balling, J. D., & Falk, J. H. (1982). Development of visual preference for natural environments. Environment and Behavior, 14(1), 5–28.
McAllister, C. (2011). Where Have All the Children Gone? Community, Nature and the Child Friendly City. University of Waterloo. Retrieved from https://uwspace.uwaterloo.ca/bitstream/handle/10012/5835/McAllister_Catherine.pdf?sequence=1
Orians, G. H., & Heerwagen, J. H. (1992). Evolved responses to landscapes. In J. H. Barkow, L. Cosmides, & J. Tooby (Eds.), The Adapted Mind: Evolutionary Psychology and the Generation of Culture. (pp. 555–579). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.