The Sense Of A Place

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What Annie Proulx says about places she has lived–through her fiction especially but also in this interview below–rings a bell for us, considering the number of places we have chosen to live to do what we do. What the interview echoes specifically for me is the inherent improbability of accomplishing one of our key objectives: we want travelers to become as attached to places as we are, so that they will care about the conservation mission of our initiatives in each location as much as we do. It occurs to me that our guests spend about as much time with us in any given location as a reader spends on any given book by Proulx; also, books and our locations share in common the fact that they can be revisited an indefinite number of times.

That said, we want our guests to care more about these locations than even the most devoted reader cares about a Proulx character; not because we think less of her characters but because our conservation mission is about places in need of constant support. Improbability in this context refers to the question: how can our guests become intensely attached–as happens when a reader is gripped by a compelling character in a deeply human situation in an exquisitely described location–in a limited amount of time and continue to care intensely after they depart? That is our challenge, and we are constantly finding new ways of answering that question.

Another echo from reading what Annie Proulx says about the places she has lived, about belonging, feels strongly relevant. If we are a fraction as good at what we do as she is at what she does, belonging becomes irrelevant. What matters is how much sense we make of the place, and how much sensibility we harness in showcasing it to our guests. If you have read any of her books, you know how evocative place can be–like an additional character–and if that captures your attention you should read the interview that follows the introductory section excerpted below.

HOW THE WRITER RESEARCHES:
ANNIE PROULX

JOHN FREEMAN INTERVIEWS THE PULITZER PRIZE WINNER IN HER SNOQUALMIE VALLEY HOME

Annie Proulx is 80 years old and still not sure where she belongs. Standing in the atrium of her home in the Snoqualmie Valley, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist eyes a photograph of the cottage she once occupied in Newfoundland, the setting of her 1993 novel, The Shipping News. “I fell in love with that landscape,” Proulx says, speaking in the tone of a woman describing an ex-lover. Continue reading