The following is an exploratory essay written at the beginning of the “Themes in American Literature” course at the University of Washington Tacoma (Winter 2014). We were examining the idea of our own personal sense of place in relationship to the articles we were reading near the beginning of the course.
“Placed and Displaced in My Place”
In his essay, “The Sense of Place,” Wallace Stegner talks about the difference between placed people and displaced people in America. He compares the placed person to Thoreau and his deep connection to Walden Pond and its surrounding environs in contrast to the displaced—or migratory—person who is “cousin not to Thoreau but to Daniel Boone, dreamer not of Walden Ponds but of far horizons.” This idea of placed versus displaced people resonated with me as I have been discovering my family’s immigrant roots as well as the multiple generations of my ancestors who have called the Puget Sound area home since traveling West on the Oregon Trail. Seven generations of my family have lived their lives here in Western Washington with roots running deeply into the historical fishing and boat-building industries that have been key to the development of this region of the world. I would say my family is currently made up of placed individuals who are directly descended from displaced pioneers. My personal sense of place is tied to the town of my childhood, the social hierarchy of the community I lived in, and my adult desires of reconnecting to the places of my childhood. Continue reading