We can write about place as a way of exploring and tracing our inner landscape. Feelings and memories resound like chords of music as we envision a particular place we have lived or visited. The memory unfolds and we are there with our senses enlivening the lyrical experience.
I often recall the mountain hollow in Kentucky where my grandfather farmed his small piece of bottom land, and I am, in that moment of memory, transported to the sense of wonder I felt following my grandfather into a coal mine he had dug in the back of a cave. I remember seeing the facets of coal sparkle as water dripped down the walls and reflected back the light from the small kerosene lamp on my grandfather’s billed cap.
My senses build that experience again some fifty years later–the sight of light sparkling from the coal, the sound of trickling water finding its way down the sloping walls of the cave, the damp flow of air in the mine, and the secure touch of my father’s hand on my shoulder, guiding me along behind his father. I am once again in that place, feeling everything I felt then. My storehouse of memories opens up for me and I am caught in a moment of time evoked from the sights and sounds and touch of the past.
Today, the mine is no longer there, bulldozed down when those mountains were stripped-mined a couple of decades after my first visit. My grandfather is also long gone, dying in the 1950s from cancer of the stomach, often blamed on his having been kicked by a mule. My father too is gone, dying in the late 1980s, always there to make me laugh and then suddenly gone. Now, I am here in the 2010s, living on the prairie, far west of those Kentucky mountains, yet that land, that cave, those moments remain vivid and compelling in my mind–a manifestation of my memories, woven from the fabric of my experience.