How does land relate to your work?

This is a great question.

Academically, I wish land related to my work more than it does. In another life, I would have been an environmental historian…and maybe there is still time. But for now, land comes into my work when I consider space planning, particularly the space planning of asylums. In the countryside, land was more affordable, so the asylums could sprawl a bit. In London, land was a high-priced commodity and people were often sentenced to cramped conditions.

I’m currently working with the Holloway Sanatorium for the Insane, an institution nestled in the Surrey countryside. Thomas Holloway and his architect had a flair for the grand.

Which, you know, is pretty obvious…

Creatively, though, land is huge.  The map is one of the first things I consider.  Here is a preliminary, drawn-on-the-bus sketch of my version of Atlantis.  Sorry about the picture quality.  You can click on it to zoom in.

Geography dictates a good deal of my social world planning. Where I put those oceans, forests, ice-lands, mountains—that’s all going to play out later in conflict and consensus, especially when it comes to energists.

Energists all need to be able to live near the element from which they draw energy. The island is about the size of the United Kingdom, but I have it regulated by an Artiface so that it functions as a tiny world—a microcosm with ice caps, warm and cold oceans, deciduous and tropical forests. The Artifice doesn’t happen without incident, though, and it’s shrunk the useable spaces for different segments of the population. While most are happy with the set up, some want out of the whole deal, because as the population expands, it becomes more and more difficult for the energists to find enough room for each separate element and the growing families who use it.  It becomes more and more difficult to argue for complete separation from humanity (other than in the secret ambassadorships that have always existed) because elements abound in the mortal realm.  Raw materials ripe for extraction.  These tensions and temptations helped me to set up the concept of energetic conservation early on, which in turn has dictated a number of the overarching values and conflicts that drive the energist society.

Even past my current project, I can see that land has always been a part of my creative process.  I have always gone in search of new landscapes, learning to recognize how they make me feel, and how to transform those feelings into description.  And I’ve been astonishingly lucky to have grown up with access to land and to its corresponding opportunities for introspection and personal growth.

My first encounters with wide open space happened on the farm.  Here, things were beautiful, but I was also aware of the work and care it took to make them so. I knew Grandpa sprayed the apples, propped up the limbs, and set out the animal traps in the orchard.

I knew that he planted the pine trees to shield the house from the north wind, while the soybeans whipped around in it.  I knew all that good clean dirt and wide open space took careful conservation, that it could be exhausting to maintain, but that it also invigorated and inspired me in the best ways possible.

I knew that writing up at the farm, perched on the edge of my grandfather’s dining room chair, made me feel alive.  In that seat, I was surrounded by my grandma’s care and erudition–the leaded glass cabinet for the Havilland China behind me, her letter writing desk to my left, built in bookcases to my right.  And I also had a view of the whole farm, past the radiator, past the garden and the strawberry patch.  It was my whole world, extending for acres into the hills and corn.

I figure remembering this land, realizing its profound effect on me, helps make me an author.

And so, I’ve never stopped searching.

I’ve found inspiration out in the Pacific Northwest.

I’ve seen the Pacific Ocean…and happily discovered that I come by my love for it honestly. Pictured, my father doing his best “Old Man and the Sea.”

I’ve discovered that the Mid-West keeps surprising me.

I’ve learned that historical places hold more worth than their histories, alone.

I’ve even had the opportunity to see land in East Anglia, John Constable style.

And I’ve been captivated and stirred by it all.

Have you discovered your own gorgeous scenery?  Have a story to go with it?  Please send it my way.

Historian, novelist, musician, and imagination professional.

6 thoughts on “How does land relate to your work?

  1. Great post. I’ve always been fascinated by how much Ancient history, in particular, has been shaped by the geography of the Mediterranean.

    • You know, I love Ancient History, as a hobby sort of interest. There’s something almost magical about it at the same time it’s so gritty and real. Any recommendations for books?

  2. Factual – ‘The Great Sea’ by David Abulafia is fantastic.
    Fiction – I still love ‘I, Claudius’ by Robert Graves

  3. As a child I was taught to have great respect for the land that supported our family. I think that is what later grew to the love of the land…knowing it cared for me….the smell of plowed earth, warm winds carrying the scent of walnut trees and the vast space…ultimately it all became a source of strength. Thanks for reminding me. Mom

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