The Sense of My Place

A Meditation on the Mountains

By Marylyn Cork

We often hear the term “sense of place.” But what does it mean? The best definition I’ve found is that it’s a strong identity that is deeply felt by inhabitants of a place, or its intrinsic character, or the meaning people attach to it. If we in northern Idaho didn’t feel a sense of place about where we live, we probably still wouldn’t be here. Traditionally, it’s been difficult to make a living here. Even today we don’t enjoy the services and conveniences of elsewhere, or the high-paying jobs. There’s a tradeoff involved in living where we do.

I’m not sure how the term “sense of place” differs from the word “roots,” except one need not ever have lived somewhere to feel the former. Recently, I met a young man from southern California who said he has vacationed at Priest Lake annually all of his life. He comes “for the trees,” he said. I think that’s part of feeling a sense of place.

At no time was I ever more conscious of it in myself than the recent day I flew into Spokane International Airport after a visit to sunny Florida (where it rained, briefly, every day but one that I was there.) Almost home! I like Florida —it’s beautiful—and I had good times there. For me, though, “the last best place” in all the world (apologies, Montana) is the short green stem of Idaho where I live. For one thing, there are way too many people most places (which is why I worry about Idaho’s current growth rate).

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