Soul places

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There are places we meet briefly and with which we have short, passionate affairs.  For a period of hours, days, maybe weeks, we love them intensely.  We become so enamoured that we wish we could give up our normal lives and stay there forever.  They have the potential to develop into longer love affairs, but ultimately, we have to leave them behind.

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An oasis on the edge of the Sahara where the silence of the desert is filled with the collective moan of scores of camels.  The eerie, mist-choked hills of Sicily on the road to Mount Etna, green shoots and buildings poking through hardened lava.  The enchanted, forest path to Hareshaw Linn waterfall, so detached that it feels like another dimension.  A string of bays on the Turkish coast where, at night, the fish trail luminescence in the water and meteors light up the sky.

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These are all places I have loved briefly and ardently.  Yet if I ever returned to these fondly remembered places, the chances are that I would never recapture that first magical meeting.  If I was to take up permanent residence, I imagine the love affair would fade, until I would wonder what I ever saw in the place that I gave up everything for.  So although sometimes they may haunt me with their potential, we’re destined not to have a future together.

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There are places with which we develop more lasting relationships.  Perhaps for a discrete period in time when we reside there, perhaps places we visit repeatedly over months or years.  For me, there is the small mining village in Yorkshire that once smelled like the sulphur of the pits before they were all closed.  The wooden cabin in the forest that I often retreat to.  The exuberance and grandeur of Rome.  These are places that court us with memory, with nostalgia.  Places we begin to know a little and imagine that we’re at home there.  They speak to something inside us.

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And then there is that other place: our soul place.  The place we arrive at and exhale; where we sigh with comfort and recognition, because we know we’re home.  The place we go to for solace when we’re miserable.  And where we go to experience joy.  The place that calls you so that you must return, over and over again.  Mine is a small tidal island in the north sea, dominated by a lighthouse.  It is a place that is constant, but constantly shifting.  A place that has many moods.  Its smell is seaweed and salt; its sound is the sea and the birds.

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Your relationship with your soul place is a kind of chemistry.  You might visit somewhere similar and not feel it.  I’ve travelled to more than twenty countries and been awe struck and felt glad to be alive, but I haven’t yet found another soul place.  Perhaps it’s about our history: the way I have felt here and the experiences we have had.  Perhaps it’s because I can conjure the moods of this place and know its history in my bones.  Perhaps it is all of these things and none of them.  It’s a connection that I can’t define, but can only feel.  I know that I will always feel different here than in any other place.  The masks drop away and I am myself.  I don’t need anything else except to be here.  In my soul place I am free.

83 thoughts on “Soul places

  1. A soul place. I love that concept. Now you’ve got me thinking of what mine would be.

    When I visit beautiful places, I wonder if I lived there if the beauty would become second nature to me. I suppose that’s only natural, but hopefully if I tuned into the surroundings now and then, I’d recapture some of that early wonder.

    What a beautifully written post. As always. 🙂

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  2. This is nothing other than brilliant. Your prose and your philosophy and your photos touch me deeply. Yes I have places in which I have affairs, too, and places where I form a type of relationship. But the soulful place? Now, that’s the place we need to be when we feel loss and joy, pain and happiness. I try to make my home my soulful place. But besides that, there’s a path by the SF bay that I have walked on so often, prayed on, wished on, loved on, that even though it’s now thousands of miles away, I know that’s where I’ll want my ashes released when my soul is free.

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  3. I think we all have a soul place somewhere we can breathe and be our self … Cumdudi is mine a little
    Cove in west wales where I used to visit but now I live.
    I have a number of favourite music tracks that I adore but never ever buy because when I hear them they stay special to me . Thanks for the post …loved it
    Cherryx

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  4. This evokes extraordinary feelings, memories… I’ve been trying to think of where/what/when for me… but need to further reflect. There is a passage in Thomas Hardy’s “The Mayor of Casterbridge” – I’ve always been too scared to look for the passage again in case it’s not as good as I remember – a horse and soldier came down to the stream to drink, there was cherry blossom (or cherries)… it was one of those moments (says Hardy) that is remembered forever…

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  5. These are fantastic photos. The first one evokes questions, is the storm coming, has a storm left? I could, and did, contemplate on that picture for several minutes. Thank you for the experience.

    I’ve traveled several countries and states in the U.S and found a connection in two places: Abiquiu, New Mexico and on top of the pyramid of the sun in Teotihuacán, outside Mexico City. Both took me far outside myself where I felt a spiritual and emotional connection.

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  6. I love your photograph of the lighthouse and the stormy sky.
    I so understand what you are saying about being yourself in your soul place, and you are so lucky that you can go there often. I am so far away from my soul places. That ‘mask’ has grown into my skin and cannot be separated from me anymore.

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  7. Wonderful piece and pictures. I never though of hearing camels moan. Your words create a deep sense of place. I’ve been living in my apartment for three and a half years now. It has been occurring to me lately that this is my soul place. I am centered here. I can let go of expecting my self to be any thing else but myself. I am free – (most of the time).

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  8. I love the idea of the place where we can be our true self at home in both our skin and our place in the world. i found that place at 34 and got to live there for 27 years. You described that experience beautifully. What is so wondrous is that even when i had to leave it…i have it always in my heart and memory. I DON’T NEED TO OWN IT OR VISIT IT…IT’S MINE!

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  9. I feel this way in high desert areas of New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado (also known as the Colorado Plateau). My soul knows I’m home by the smell of the sage and the slickrock under my feet and the first call of the raven. Thanks for taking me back there today!

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  10. How beautiful, both the words and the photos. I know what you mean about that soul connection. Even if it’s a place we just visit, somehow we feel connected. Love how you made a setting into a character of its own.

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  11. Gorgeous pictures, and I’m loving the blue color scheme you have going on. Don’t know if you’ve always had the blue background or if it’s accentuated by the pictures, but it’s lovely.

    Your soul place sounds perfect. We all need a retreat like that. When I was little, my soul place was high up in an apple tree. I don’t really have one now — hard to have one when you have kids who need you constantly. So, I guess for now, my soul place is my writing.

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  12. A woman after my own heart. There are many places where the soul resides or has resided I think, but the older I get the more I realise that I don’t need to physically go to them anymore to feel that connectedness with the universe. It’s all in my head. I can be there anytime – it’s a kind of magic…

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  13. Beautiful photos and writing! I have had two poetry teacher/mentors in my life. One was from New York City, the other from American’s heartland region. Later, he moved from the heartland to a desert region of Southern California. He told me that it took two years before he was able to write freely about the desert landscapes, as he still focused his poetry on the Midwest images he carried in his imagination. My NYC mentor said, “Of course, because the desert is just the prairie gone bad.” Love all discussions of places, how we interact with them, how they influence our imaginations, our writing, and our overall sensibility. You talk about knowing the place’s “history” in your bones. Such a nice thought!

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  14. Beautiful series of photos, and yes ~ you have described perhaps the best feeling ever when traveling, when we begin to tell ourselves and others “we could give up our normal lives and stay there forever.” I can see it here.

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  15. It’s a beautiful soul place, that tidal island. I often dream of wild island places and think, “If only…” This thought is usually punctuated by a sigh, as the chance of me travelling to such a place is unlikely, thus I don’t have a soul place, although sitting on the sofa with my dog’s chin resting on my lap could be said to be a soul place in my own home!

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  16. I think there is a tendency for many of us to take a place for granted once we’ve spend an extended period of time there. A shame, really, that we can’t hold onto those “soul place moments” for more of a lifetime.

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  17. Wow. Poetry, this one. And you describe each type of place so well. I have always paid attention to the places for which I feel a strong affinity. They can be so healing . . . thank you for sharing such beautiful thoughts with such lilting words.

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  18. I’m so in love with this one! I’m in love with all of your posts though. 😉

    I am a wandering soul, and I have to travel places regularly to feel like I’m truly living. I don’t want to be a nomad, as I love having a beautiful home with the kitties, but I need to experience different places. The Oregon coast has definitely become my soul place. It changes constantly, but it’s still the same. Every time I’m there, I feel endless.

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  19. That coalescing of time, feeling, circumstance and atmosphere are a rare thing, you capture it beautifully, as ever accompanied by wonderful photos. I love lighthouses, they are wonderful places filled with so many stories. I wish I could set off and explore somewhere right now!

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  20. What a cool concept you expressed in a soul place. I have had love affairs with places but when I returned to them I didn’t feel the same. I think some places can only be visited once and never again. Others can be returned to and cherished each time. 🙂

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  21. Andrea, your soul place looks beautiful. I have encountered a few soul places, but whether they would have become my forever soul place I didn’t ever get long enough to find out. At the moment I am still searching.

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  22. I so enjoyed traveling to your favorite places, Andrea, and your rich descriptions. One of my favorite things about traveling is having the memory of magical places. Sometimes it is difficult to leave the place, yes, and you’re right, it’s never the same returning; but the magic, it stays with us forever.

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  23. Andrea, this post is mesmerising. Your photos alone are glorious, the skyline with the lighthouse standing tall and straight and so white against the looming, ever darkening skyline, which then breaks out into wide open blue. I realised I held my breath as I read of your travels, described so evocatively (and what marvellous adventures you have had!) and then, when you brought us so expertly back to your true soul place, I exhaled with you. It is wonderful that you’ve found such a beautiful and wild soul place. I would love to live somewhere like that! I used to feel like this everytime I returned home from California to England when I visited my family – that feeling of exhaling, I’m home now. Yet a part of me will never leave California. The photos I shared in yesterday’s post are from one of those soul places of mine. I spent so many years there with my children. I know if I were to go there today, I would exhale and breathe in the salt and listen to the sea birds and I would close my eyes and know only calm. So maybe that would be my soul place, that place by the sea in California…Gorgeous post Andrea, beautifully written as always, just lovely…

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  24. My brief affair was with Pacific Grove, California. A motel (yes, motel, not hotel) across the street from the ocean with the windows left open. The sea otters all over the gritty beach. All in a year where nothing had been glitzed up, no restaurant or store chains, etc.

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  25. Andrea, I adore your description and photos of your sanctuary. I have lived in many places and have seen the sun rise over many different cities. I use to be drawn to city life. But now the mountains and solitude of rural life speak to me. I do believe we can have many sanctuaries in our lives. For me at this moment its country life.

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  26. Pingback: Marooned | Harvesting Hecate

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