A sense of PLACE

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Posted by Ed Kiser on February 19, 2004 at 20:49:40 from user Kisered.

If a person has never been in the United States, it would be
quite an incorrect picture of this land formed in his mind's eye
if he were to base it on several movies, produced on sound stages
in Hollywood. For such a person to actually walk the streets of
the large cities of USA, and a small country village, to view the
sea coasts, to gaze upon the mountain ranges, to see the rolling
hills, to travel by boat on the many lakes and rivers, then he
would become very much aware of the mistakes those early images
based on movies suggested to him.

In a somewhat similar way, I have an image of the Mother Country
in my own mind, an image that has been drawn by repeated
absorption of the descriptions of Arthur Ransome. These images
have been made more real by my daily visits to the LAKELANCAM,
where Tony Richards has shared with the world the beauty of his
area through the use of his talented camera. But these are all
just glimpses into that land, hardly the same view that one gets
having spent a lifetime actually living there.

The pictures I see, even considering the accuracy of Tony's
camera, are but tiny samples of that reality that I will never
get to be a part of. It is all I will have; so I must make do
with that. I cannot but wonder what a real experience would show
that would be previously unknown and unseen. A picture cannot
portray a conversation with someone that has lived in that place
all his life. A picture cannot let me feel the wind and rain, or
give me the aroma that is a part of the character of Place. A
picture can never let me experience the customs or let me hear
the language as that is the essence of the people who give the
spirit to a land, not just scenic beauty captured by a camera.

Yet I am grateful to Tony for the gift of his daily efforts to
send to the world bits and pieces of his land, for me to make it
a daily requirement to go and visit his website, to download each
and every item he offers, to save these so that now, my "slide
show" presentation grinds thorough many hours of breathtaking
beauty captured by over four thousand of his views. Through his
pictures, I get to feel at least just a bit of that land, and to
appreciate the love that Ransome must have felt for that place,
as he shared his love for it in his stories to us all.

I am astounded by certain aspects of those pictures that show so
frequently. The large number of stone walls making a network
across the slopes and fields - the many stone bridges across busy
streams - the stately houses of sturdy stone with slate roofs -
the narrowness of the paved byways with an almost total lack of
what I would call the "shoulder of the road" - the question of
what happens when meeting on-coming traffic - the way these roads
follow the contours of the land, twisting and turning rather

Even in the towns, the closeness of buildings to the traffic is
amazing as vehicles normally come within a foot of striking a
stone wall of some house in normal traffic conditions.

There is so much shown that seems so unusual to me, such as -
there are strange markings on the roadways, strange to me anyway,
like the zigzag pattern down the highway. Then there is the
thatched roof - I have never understood how a bunch of stems of
plants, no matter how tightly bundled together, could ever be
expected to form some watertight covering for a room. Surely
water can trickle down through those plants. I shudder at the
fire hazard such a pile of hay on the roof could be in case of
sparks come flying from some nearby fire. What varmits will come
to make a home in its tightly arranged sticks.

Then there is that other custom that would make my brain have to
turn itself inside out - the idea of driving on the LEFT. I
would be an extreme hazard to attempt driving in such a place.
At the first round-about, I would be in for a head-on collision.
But at least, while viewing Tony's collection of photos, I
can leave the driving to him and avoid such a disaster.

But always is present the stone, so much of it. I marvel at how
much labor (er, labour - sorry 'bout that - forgot where my mind
was there for a moment) it must take to wrestle these stones from
the ground and to lift them up and precisely place these to make
the stone fences and stone walls of buildings. But once built,
it is not likely for termites to be that much of a problem with
that kind of structure, and rust and rot are not a consideration

I marvel at how OLD some of those stone walls may be, especially
the bridges and buildings. The very word, OLD, is itself a
relative thing, depending on where one is. To me here in
Florida, OLD may mean a hundred years old. Several hundred years
ago, this land was occupied by stone age man that had not
discovered the wheel. That is a long time ago by our standards
of "old". To go back before European explorations came here, it
was just the American Indian culture that made arrow heads from
flint rock. But to go back a few hundred years in the Mother
Country, of those buildings many of which are still standing
today, one could say that by now, the foundation has throughly
settled in. In that place, OLD implies going back much further
than the American concept of OLD. But somehow, I seriously doubt
that any building made here (Florida) today would be around in
several hundred more years. Indeed, it is unusual to have houses
here (there are a very few) that are as much as 100 years old.
But a hundred year old house in the Lake District? It must be
considered to be recent construction, hardly "old."

To try to picture what is is like there, based on Ransome's
descriptions - as marvelous as they are - or on Tony's photos, is
going to leave out so much from my understanding. That is
regretted, but for the little glimpses these two artists have
given me, I am truly grateful. Hopefully, the beauty and
appreciation of that place is a correct interpretation of what it
is like to truly be there. To those of you for whom the
experience of the LAKES DISTRICT is just normal daily living, may
I suggest that you look up from time to time and look about you
and try to see your land as if you are seeing it for the first
time, and maybe you can get a fresh marvelous impression of what
you in your daily lives have come to just take for granted.

But then, here in South Florida, I too must remember that I live
every day in a place that many strive to get to, especially when
the northern areas are under many inches (feet?) of snow, while I
decide to dress for cool weather by wearing a LONG sleeve shirt
instead of the usual short sleeved one. Maybe I too should look
about and see the palm trees to which I have become so
accustomed, and try to view this place, as I once did, years ago,
as a newcomer. Maybe this place is not so bad after all; at
least, people have the sense to drive on the RIGHT side of the
road, not the WRONG side.

Wonder how that custom began, and why it is different between

My deepest thanks and appreciation to Tony Richards of


and to our mutual friend, Arthur Ransome, who brought not only a
beautiful land to me, but also some childhood friends for me to
enjoy, friends that will never grow old, and so, keep me young
with them.

Ed Kiser, South Florida

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Courtesy of Environmental Science, Lancaster