Each locale may have a certain temperament that enters your heart behind the first wave of visual reactions. Some places jump there immediately, while others are so visually stimulating or so gently subtle that it may take hours, days or even years before you appreciate the depth that lies behind the pretty exterior. Places that Speak explores the relationship that a geographic location has to people by how it communicates its essence to us. Through places, we can discover more about ourselves as individuals and how we respond, which may be tempered by our life experiences, our needs and mindset at the time, and our openness to the world beyond what we see.
For example, take Holland. Behind the charm of the tulips, canals and windmills, lies a long struggle with the sea. It is easy to get lost in the beauty of its flower gardens and bulb fields in the spring, charmed by its quaint architecture, but visit some of the small coastal villages and walk away from the touristy areas. Behind the bright painted buildings, you can begin to feel the struggle in the land and in its people. Much of the Netherlands is land claimed or reclaimed from the unrelenting North Sea.
While in Marken, an island in the Markenmeer transformed into a peninsula by a causeway, I wandered near the wall to the sea and found its dark gray presence menacing where only a low sea wall protected the land and village. Walking into the residential area, the local church was the first church I had visited which had a maritime theme, with replicas of sailing vessels hanging from its rafters and nautical themes in its stained glass windows. As I looked at the faces of a few older locals, some in rough wooden shoes, the battle to live in that climate came home to me.
Another example may be found on the Isle of Skye. I visited Scotland on a walking tour some years ago, following a bit of time on my own. My work and every day stresses had all but banished my soul from my body. It had crawled off into some protected recess and refused to be a part of the humdrum, harsh life of the business world. While on Skye, the wind tore away the negatives in my life. As we hiked into the Highlands with the companionship of a rugged crofter-turned-guide, suddenly I felt whole again. The stresses were taken off of my shoulders like a brittle cloak that the wind carried away. My soul came out to enjoy the mists and the sun. When thoughts of Skye come back to me, they are thoughts of welcome, of healing and of having no use for the knots our civilization can ties us up in. I am so looking forward to going back this year.
In the menu option essence, you will find a sampling of places visited and what my heartfelt reactions were to each one. Each locale has variations from place to place, building to building. These photos and text show poignant reactions that I had in each area. Remember to hover over the photo to see the descriptive text, or not hover to see the full photo.
This is how these places spoke to me. Perhaps you will hear a different story when you visit them, if your heart, mind and soul are open.