Healing Place, for me at least, always poses a subtle linguistic challenge. That pesky present participle blesses us with ambiguity: are we healing the place or is the place healing us? And the answer, of course, is both are true. Or they’re usually both true? Or they’re sometimes both true? This duality is elegant–and complex.
What is your experience with these two meanings? For me, I’m a synthesizer and a spectrum person, so I’m always looking for a way to bring ideas together–or maybe I’m always looking for a shortcut. Regardless, when I contemplate Healing Place, I think about energy. It’s a little bit like how Myers Briggs lovers talk about being an introvert or an extrovert. If you’re an introvert, you get renewed by being alone; if you’re an extrovert, you get renewed by being with people. If a place is healing, you need its energy; if you’re healing a place, it needs your energy.
This is my experience at least. There are a few places that always help heal me: the family farm where my grandmother lived and where my parents now live, the “natural lands” on the campus of St. Olaf College, the poetry garden just behind the Humanities Center. There are a few places that reliably drain me: the place where I grew up which has gone from a house and acreage to a corn field; the Pine Bend Refinery, which I pass twice a day going to and from work; the linen closet in my house that is full of things I’ve “stored” for no good reason–I could probably do something about that one.
Obviously, my examples are scaled to me as an individual. They’re personal and not really about the work that I do–though I do have feelings about the sites where I work and some give me more energy and some take more. But the personal ones are the ones that “stick” for me. Many people would drive by the place where I grew up and feel nothing, notice nothing–this corn field is no different from the acres and acres and acres that surround it. But it is different to me. I recognize that I’m incredibly privileged to be ignorant of the healing that so many places need; I would be exhausted if every place I went felt like that corn field does.
I’d love to hear from any partners, or anyone else in the comments: How does a place heal you? How do you heal a place?
Thank you for listening; thank you for sharing.