My father grew up in the mining village of Cwmcarn, in South Wales. The Pit was the centre of town. Generations of men made their way underground each morning and returned to the pithead each evening blackened with soot. That’s what men did. The Pit was the lifeblood of the town.
The house where my father was born stood in a row of miner’s cottages built on the edge of a stream called, Millbrook, not far from the pithead. The town was shrouded in coal dust and surrounded by slag heaps but to my father it was home. He never mentioned the coal dust or the slag heaps, he talked about climbing the mountains above the town, of picking wimberries when they were in season and his mother making wimberry pies and wimberry jam. He talked about learning to catch trout by hand in the mountain streams by tickling their tummy. He did what boys did, while he waited in line to be the next generation to make their way underground to dig coal and earn a living.
His roots were there, grown deep into the soil of a mining community who understood hardship, tragedy and mateship. Someone said, “To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognised need of the human soul.”
All of our stories happen somewhere. Every memory involves a place … your first day at school, your first kiss and the time you broke your arm, bought a boat or met your best friend. Place shapes us, it is an integral part of our history.
Just last week, I was heading into Coles to buy some groceries when a woman coming towards me spoke my name. I was surprised she recognised me, I hadn’t seen her for about 35 years. She was my neighbour when I was a young mum, raising my family. Within minutes we were back in that place, chatting as we had done over the fence all those years ago. A place we’d once shared united us again as the past collided with the present. In that beautiful serendipitous moment I was reminded that we may move on in life but the past places of our existence will always remain part of who we are.
It makes me realise that where I am at this moment is precious. This place is not some incidental to my life but an intrinsic part of it. God has a purpose for me in this place and I want to embrace it, savour it, share it and make it the best it can be. I want to build memories in this place and know it with more than a cursory acquaintance, I want to know it with my heart.
I hope you'll take a moment to gaze at your place with fresh eyes, discover its uniqueness, find a sense of place right there where you are.
Take a few minutes to watch this delightful video clip -
A Sense of Place.