I have always been drawn to spaces, and the flow of movement through spaces. In my final year of high school, I undertook a Geography project, mapping the land use of several square miles of the west end of Glasgow. As is the way with schools, the finished map was still displayed on a corridor wall, facing the Geography classrooms, years after I left. That year, I won prizes for both Geography and History, and spent both on books on principles of Architecture. On leaving school, I worked as an architect’s draftsman before setting out on the first year of an Architecture degree, though I dropped out, switching to Biblical Studies, after that first year.
Spaces, and their connections to other spaces, fascinate me. Places, I find more complicated. I have lived in Sunderland since October 2013, and have not found it an easy place to love. Perhaps that is because I am an outsider, an in-comer, into a place fiercely loved (if, often, run down in conversation) by native Mackems.
But spaces only exist in places, and it seems that everything I am reading lately has been speaking to me of place, and love of places, love of a place. Louise Penny’s latest Gamache mystery, All The Devils Are Here, this time set in Paris, but with her trademark delight in place, be it Paris or Montreal or Quebec City or the fictional village of Three Pines. Elizabeth Strout’s collections of sparse short stories set in a fictional community on the Maine coast, Olive Kitteridge and Olive, Again. Winn Collier’s authorised biography of Eugene H. Peterson, A Burning In My Bones, conveying Eugene’s deep grounding in his beloved Flathead Valley, Montana. Love of place. Love of place. Love of an actual place (even if it finds literary expression clothed in a fictional place).
Invitation to go deeper into love of the place where I find myself. To the extent that I already love this place, it has come about, little measure by little, as I have walked the parish, and run through the city. Walk, and run. Walk, and run. At three miles an hour, and six. Well worn pavements, well-worn shoes. Cardiac exercise, training the heart.