Altered States of Place
The “places” that are important to us are currently in a state of re-definition. As we experience social distancing to address the Covid-19 pandemic, our work spaces and our personal spaces are now one and the same. My kitchen table – that place where pies are fashioned and family dinners are shared – is now a two-person office replete with dueling laptop computers. The separation of work and personal – that idea of work/life balance – has been upended as our working lives and personal lives have become more closely intertwined. In many ways, we have returned to that pre-industrial, agricultural past, when families toiled together within the home space towards the shared goal of family economic stability. Like the farming community that surrounds me, my waking hours are no longer regulated by the ringing of an alarm clock but rather by the rays of sunlight that come through my window in the morning.
It is important for people to develop a sense of place. We situate ourselves within the natural and social worlds and we form our identities through the intersections that we find there. “Place” informs us. It shapes our culture and our sense of being. We belong to places and we fashion our identities through the places that we inhabit.
As we struggle to reshape the everyday, our places are shown into sharper focus. When we return to what is “normalcy” – and that moment will come- we need to keep our heightened awareness of ourselves in situ. What have we noticed about our places and what about our places sustained us? For me, I will want to retain the calm that comes through a road without traffic, the ability to hop up from where I am sitting to take a hike through the nearby nature preserve, and the connections I feel to my family and neighbors who are similarly impacted by our social distancing. We need to remember this moment so that when we return to our places of work, we bring our place-based sensibilities with us.