“Real places are never captured in words. There is always more.”
-Erin Morgenstern, The Starless Sea
Lately I’ve been thinking about place. Or feeling place. Right now I’m in the foyer of Flagg Hall at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and outside the trees are green and yellow, orange and red. The sky is glowing like the inside of an abalone shell. This morning was foggy, close, the buildings a block ahead appearing slowly. The fog’s lifting now. The foyer’s vents hum and the mosaiced floor is cold, smooth.
I think everything that goes on inside me—my hurts and hopes, confusions and joys and connections, my questions and curiosities—is more related to specific places than I usually realize. Yesterday afternoon, feeling overwhelmed was also feeling disconnected from the room I was in. A walk outside, a nod to my neighbor as we passed at the place where tree roots have broken through the sidewalk, and I felt closer. I would have said, before going on the walk, maybe I need to rest. And maybe I did. But I think I was also fumbling toward place. I was trying to be where I was.
Real places are never captured in words. There is always more. Yes. I think that’s true. Maybe it’s also true that we are never found, never settled into ourselves, without places. To be is to be somewhere. The more is not just a reaching out or an adding in. I don’t get there by mentioning the bench in the foyer that I’m using as a desk, or the brick buildings outside with climbing ivy. (The ivy brightens: green to pale green to yellow to red). There is always more, and some of it is a weaving together. Outward and inward, place and mind, until those don’t make sense as opposites.