Space and Place

OK, so I said I would write a MAL entry when I got back, and I will, but I haven’t had time yet.

I’m in Urban Political Geography, and for class today, we had to write a 2-minute response to this problem:  how do we/you claim space (other than buying it)?  This was my response:

Space and place have always been an interesting problem for me.  People often ask me where I am from, a question that on some level asks what area I claim as my own.  Being the daughter of a Navy personnelman, I’ve never had a good answer to this question.  People claim space and place by where they were born, or where they grew up the longest, or where their families are originally from.  None of these answers work for me:  I was born in Baltimore, two places can lay claim to the “longest lived,” and I have family from both costs of the United States.  Many Americans claim their countries of origin prior to immigration (I myself know I am primarily Irish, Swedish, and German), but I have no connection to those countries other than a date of immigration.

Potomac Street, Ridgeley, WVMy claims to place do not come from ownership, as I have never owned a house or a piece of land.  They come from memories and the emotions attached to them.  And for me, they are very geography based.  My strongest claim to home is the Appalachian mountains.  My grandmother was born in Keyser, WV, and I grew up in Western Maryland and the Eastern panhandle of West Virginia from 1995-2001.  The culture there is the one I most identify with, both from living there and from being raised by a father who spent his summers climbing around those mountains when he would visit his own grandparents.  Both of my parents still live in this area, and holidays and breaks are spent there as “home.”

Moving to Blacksburg was an emotional experience for me, because in so many ways, it reminds me of middle and high school memories.  While unique in its own right, Blacksburg shares much of the characteristics and culture in the space I grew up.  I notice familiar trees and flowers.  The mountains on the horizon are the same rolling shape.  The people come from similar social, religious, and economic backgrounds.  The memories here of course do not match the ones from my childhood.  I cannot point to the place I skinned my knee in seventh grade or the trees I took my sophomore prom pictures in front of.  Yet the cultural memory runs deeper.  Though the place is different, this new space is home.

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