We are conditioned to see places through the lenses of tourism, or industry, or comfort. Where are the vistas, the cozy spaces, the economic opportunity? What is worthwhile here?
Places, though, can speak in more subtle and sophisticated ways, if we are able to appreciate them. “If you don’t manage to take in the genius of the place, let it say its piece through you, the place will throw you out,” Tom Lilburn writes in Going Home.
Not just city intersections and directional signage (though, as an urbanist, those interest me too) but the historical intersections and overlay of generations. And our ways of finding meaningful spaces in place and time.
My magnet, the geography that draws me back time and again is the rough and inhospitable country of west-central Alberta, Canada. Brazeau County is the heart of the Pembina oil field. As such, its thick woodlands are criss-crossed with oil industry survey lines, pipelines, well heads and service roads. There is some logging activity but much of the terrain is boggy, producing stunted trees and brush not suitable for commercial forestry.