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Editor's Desk - November 2013

A Sense of Place

Those famous lines from Thoreau's Walden encapsulate what, to me, is an essential experience of living—one that I am afraid fewer and fewer Americans are engaged in. That is, the experience of leaving all the hustle and bustle behind. Leaving it all to wander out into the wild and experience what it means to be a living creature in the midst of a million other living creatures on the planet. Nothing more. Nothing less.

And compared to Thoreau, who ventured to live simply at Walden Pond in the year 1845, we have a lot more hustle and bustle to escape—the endless chirping of smart phones, the cavalcade of e-mails, the massaging of social media. Is there anyone who doesn't long for an "off" button at some point near the middle of every day?

Lucky for me, I have nearly 1,400 acres of wild land practically at my doorstep, and I spend a good amount of time walking the same 3-or-so-mile loop of a trail every week.

I've found that when you visit the same place over and over again, every week for many years, it begins to become your own in a way. Almost indistinguishable from home. After nearly a decade of walking this trail, I can tell you where the bluebirds, sparrows and other small birds can be found on a chilly, windy day. I could tell you which order the flowers will bloom. I can tell you approximately when the cormorant starts to think about flying south.

I can tell you that if you pick the seedhead off of an expired yellow coneflower and crush it between your fingers, the scent will reinvigorate you for another handful of miles. But all of the things I could tell you about this place—and there are many—are just a drop in the bucket of what it has to offer. Which is one of the reasons I keep going back.

And this is one of the great joys of our nation's parklands, whether we look to the grandest scale and our national parks and forests, or we consider the more minute wild spaces interspersed throughout our cities and countryside.

Encouraging people to get out and see these wild places—to make them their own—is such a crucial part of what recreation leaders do. Without the deep appreciation for a place that develops over time and via regular visits, is there anyone to notice when that place is lost or compromised?

So tell me, what are some of the ways you encourage people to get outside and involved in the unplugged world? And what have you learned from your favorite places?

Be well,

Emily Tipping
Editorial Director,
Recreation Management

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