A few years ago I read about Gerald Murnane, an Australian author who won an award that normally required the recipient to travel abroad but instead he travelled to places in his home state that had been personally significant to him – his “geographies”. As I’ve been moving home and settling into life in Vancouver, I’ve been thinking a lot about the areas where I have lived and spent time, how they’ve changed and how we are stewards for places that existed before us and continue on after the relationship is discontinued.
My parents liked to live in new buildings and built two of my childhood homes were built for us, from the ground up, but I have realized that I prefer old places with history and secrets. I love finding evidence of past lives and making things slightly better for the people who will come after. I have realized in recent years how powerful my sense of place is. I can be gardening in a section of the yard and recall an audiobook that I was listening to there the summer before, or driving down a stretch of road recalling memories encoded into something like the shape of a tree. Some places are crowded with memory while others, even if I spent a lot of time there, seem weak.
I decided to recreate Murnane’s experiment (inasmuch as I could remember it) and visit all of the places I have lived in Langley, Victoria, Vancouver and Seattle. It was a fascinating journey down memory lane but also eye-opening in terms of what we remember. Some places I found I could not recognize at all, others only from photographs.