Understanding Place Week 1: Temporal Scales

This week we have thought about how observing and experiencing place through different time scales can help us care for places, and in turn, work towards positive social and environmental change. Students of the Understanding Place class should post a comment here, each briefly describing a chosen place that they know well, and then reflecting on the importance of temporal scales in their understanding of that place.


  1. zoe zeerip says:

    The shores of Lake Michigan are a place that have been shaped by millions of years of glacier movements, weather patterns, and now human activity. It is this place that holds such a rich history of its own, where I have found my own history being created. My history and connection is much shorter than the millions of years it took to form the sandy shores, the blue fresh water, and the ecosystems that interacts with its waters. I cannot wrap my head around the millions of years that these geological transformations took to happen, but I can understand how such a place has gain significance so quickly for someone such as myself.
    Lake Michigan has had its own changes for me in my brief time on Earth. These changes are more mental than physical, although seeing small changes in the geography relates me to my relatively short timescale as well. These geographic changes allow me to realize how quickly I can change.
    The lake once represented a place to frolic without hesitation. A place where no thinking was done. A place where I was juvenile. I think about being young and the joyful memories that I accumulated through many trips to Lake Michigan. I remember how I did not have worries when I went to the beach, I only had glee. As time has gone on, the lake has come to have a different sense of place. It is now a place of meditation. A place of reminiscences. A place of calmness. As I have grown older I have begun to seek out Lake Michigan when I need an escape, or time to myself. It was once my refuge for fun, now it’s my refuge for balance. I am grateful for my growing relationship with this place as it shaped me as a kid and is shaping me as an adult.
    I can see it changing too and that allows me to grasp a small understanding of its own history. I revisit Stony Lake, and where it feeds into Lake Michigan, nearly every summer. Not one summer has it looked the same as the past, yet the memories are still there and it’s value not diminished. It is still Lake Michigan. It is still old in history and young in energy. It is still forging its path as I too do.

  2. Elissa Edmunds says:

    Elissa Edmunds

    Camp Nahshii is a suicide prevention camp located in the Alaskan Bush on the Yukon River. The camp is about three hours down river from Fort Yukon, one of the villages. The camp is specifically for the Gwich’in Athabascan youth of the Yukon Flats, and the word “Nahshii” means healing in the Gwich’in language. The camp has a field that has been cleared, as well as a boat dock, a landing porch, a kitchen, storage, bunkhouses, an office, outhouses, a gathering area, and tents. During the time of the camp, there is 24-hour sun, so everything is well lit and Camp Nahshii is known for having the most beautiful and clear view of the sky.

    The land was originally owned by the chief of the village Beaver, but was gifted to an organization to build the camp. From there, many of the other villages wanted to get involved after building close relationships with the people from this organization. The camp is in its 9th year of camp, and has taken a lot of time, work teams, and volunteers to help clear some of the land for buildings, and to build buildings. Over time, hundreds of Gwich’in Athabascan youth have come, as well as people from all over the United States.
    There are a lot of different species there, including lynx, black bear, grizzly bear, king salmon, arctic owl, arctic fox, moose, and lots of mosquitoes and horse flies. The only species thus far that there has been a difference in the number of sightings has been the grizzly bear. No one is completely sure why. The trees are all very tall and thin, and often take on different shapes than a tree that would just go straight up.

    Considering that the camp was built 9 years ago, there has been a lot of change over just a few years. Once of the largest changes was a few years ago when the Yukon ice melted faster than usual, causing the water level to raise and completely flood the camp. To get around camp, people had to go in boats. Temporal scales are significant in my understanding of place because it helps to identify the season that most of the work is done, which is usually in early spring and summer. It also helps to monitor how often there is a chance of flooding, so that the proper resources are available to help protect what has been built. Most of the focus on the camp is during present time for the youth who are attending from the different villages, so the goals are usually presented in a few months and then yearly time scales. Setting those goals per year helps to develop information needed to continue to improve the camp, including how much food is needed to survive, the amount of people who need to volunteer, how many youth can be housed, how much gas is needed to get to camp, as well as to run it, and to help determine the weather. Ultimately, temporal scales help to plan and make decisions for the camp based on weather, light from the sun, and the best times to dig for outhouses.

  3. Colleen Dollard says:

    Where I am the grass is crisp, not soft, but cooked by the heat of the sun. The description ‘blades’ of grass is more fitting here than in other landscapes of lush, vibrant green. There are not enough trees to protect the grass, or my skin, from the sun. I can tell that trees were here before, a long time ago protecting the ground cover, but were torn down to build the marvelous gardens of a rich man that have also disappeared over time.

    Just as I feel my skin cracking in the sun the sea breeze splashes the moisture back onto my skin. I cannot tell if the faint smell of salt is coming from my skin or the ocean. I don’t mind this cycle of heat followed by the short relief of cold water and I don’t think the grass does either- it is still here after all. I wonder how long this grass has been here, how much it has endured? Mowed every Thursday of the week since who knows how long to keep it inviting to visitors. Mowed over every week by mechanical machines not at all comparable in size nor impact as the glacier that similarly moved over the same land thousands of years ago.

    There is value in the history of a place. By broadening your understanding of the place that you occupy you gain insight into your significance there and the significance of the place itself in the retrospect of time. Physically, I can only see what this place is now. The vastness of the ocean and the surrounding hills only help to paint a picture in my mind of what this place was thousands of years ago, before any land was carved out and water made itself a home. But I too have made this place my home.

    The effect of humans on this particular place is evident. Both pieces of history, geological and human, leave me ashamed when I squint my eyes against the sun to see pieces of plastic scattered amongst the rocks and industries lined up along the coast. It is not just a place, it is a place that tells a story of how it came to be and what happened after that. It is a place where actions have consequences. And it is a place worth protecting for the good of non-human and human life.

  4. Gavi Kaplan says:

    Gabriel joseph Kaplan : this is my blog

    Breathe in. What do you smell, taste, and feel in your lungs? I smell pine. I can taste and feel the steam evaporating off the trees following a mid-August’s rain. The year is 2006 and I am eleven years old–a dinosaur of sorts, crashing through underbrush and leaping across moss-covered stone on my way to Kidney pond. Where am I? I am in the forest, like my mother before me. And the priests of Campion center before her, and the Native Americans before them. I can’t imagine what came before that, but it’s in me, and is in all of them. As are we in it–the forest behind my grandma’s house. Before it was my grandma’s house, it was someone else’s house. And we owe Boston College for deciding to add these Weston, Massachusetts woods to their registry of conservation land. Before the houses, it belonged to the animals. The deer that ate the leaves of our rhododendron bushes, regardless of how many shavings of Irish Spring soap we sprinkled to repel them. I have a hard time believing the Native Americans encountered this problem. Somehow, the deer just left them alone. They were more concerned with larger predators, gone from these parts and now a thing of the past–of another time. Time. What does it say about this place? What does this place say about time? Time and place are not concerned with whoever claims stewardship over the land at any given moment. They weren’t there before, and they will be gone soon enough. Time and place, the only two constants in a system of perpetual, harsh, violent change. Change across species, geology, ice and water, fire and brimstone, and from one generation of Kaplan to the next. Place does not give a darn about whether or not the next door neighbors choose to clear cut and plant an apple orchard. We cared a lot, so did the town–but place knows in its heart of hearts that temporal space will not be interrupted by the simple, short-sighted decisions of homosapiens. They’ll be gone soon, and place will go on. The rocks remind us of a distant memory when glaciers scraped and clawed their way over this place. Maybe they’ll come again, forever changing the physical entity that is this place. But it will still be here. It was, and so will it be.

    *** *** ***

    The year is 2017 and I am almost twenty-two years old. My grandmother has finally sold the house, and It is no longer my place. Technically. According to the laws of humans. But it will always be MY place. And it will always be my Mothers. Even when the glaciers come again.

  5. Sadie Zavgren says:

    I have lived in New Hampshire since I was eight years old. We moved here to escape the limiting confines of a suburban neighborhood in Massachusetts. There, on that quarter acre lot, we weren’t allowed to build tree houses or hang our clothing out to dry in the sun. When we painted our home dark blue, we actively took a step away from the army of beige houses that lined the streets. The neighbors didn’t approve of our “rebellious” act. In New Hampshire, the live free or die state, we could do whatever we wanted on our twelve acres of rural land. We felt a sense of freedom in a labyrinth of oak and pine trees. My mom and dad decided to homeschool my younger sister and me because they knew there was so much to learn just by being on our land, but also because they wanted us to experience an alternative form of education. My place is my family’s land in New Hampshire, because it is here that I learned to freely think, appreciate how food is grown, the importance of bees, and where I became a vegan in 2008, among other things.

    Our land in New Hampshire is split into two sections: a large field with a garden, orchard, and berry patch; and a cascading waterfall flowing into a river that lines the perimeter of our property. Our house was built in 1840, and was originally used as a mill; the natural power generated from the waterfall was used to operate the mill. The few houses that are close to our mill also served a purpose back in the 19th century. One house was the general store, another was the pub where people gathered to interact with their neighbors. This place feels rooted in history, and I always feel a sense of wonderment when I return after a period of time away. It is a historic place, and because I have lived here for fifteen year, I feel as though my family and I have been able to add our own story to the layers in some capacity.

    Ever since I was a young girl, I’ve helped my parents nurture our space; we collect sap from the maple trees in the early spring, let the hens out to free-range during the day, and when we were raising pigs, we would feed them vegetables that were donated by local farmers. This environment was my classroom. We learned by doing, by observing, by interacting with this place. My parents and I are now members of our town’s energy committee. We are working together to help our speck of a town invest in solar panels in order to operate town buildings with that renewable energy. I feel as though I will never stop learning from this place, because it finds a way to continuously educate me.

  6. Matia Whiting says:

    Growing up, my family moved between the Netherlands and Boston several times. In a home environment that was continuously changing, one “place” remained constant: my grandmother’s farm on the shores of Squam Lake, New Hampshire. “The farm,” as we call it, is ten acres of rolling fields and forest that radiate out from rustic red barns, a small dirt parking lot, a large main house and a smaller farmhand house. I spent every single one of my childhood summers running around barefoot on the lawn with my grandmother’s basset hound, exploring the piles of knickknacks in the barns, jumping naked into the lake under the stars, and bathing in the sun on the front porch of the main house. The connection I feel to the land is deeply personal, built from years of these experiences, as well as a lengthy family history on the land.
    My mother grew up on the farm, and as a youth she experienced the land in ways both similar and different to me. She has watched her childhood home change drastically on a human-life-span-timescale. When the farm was in full swing of operation, home to cows, chickens, sheep, horses and goats, the lawns were well kept grazing grounds. Today, without roaming livestock, wildly proliferating forests have taken over most of the pastures, and the still-grassy parts of the lawn are often overgrown. Additionally, my mother has watched the barns transition from bustling, sturdy buildings into dilapidated relics of their former selves. She often shows me photographs of herself and her seven siblings working with the animals, or running across the vast fields. She also shows me family portraits, which I find particularly interesting because they are always taken on the same rock. Large and table-like, the rock remains in the middle of the main field by the big house. We still take our family photos on the rock; thus, in a sense, this rock is a token of persistence in the face of great change in the timescale of several human generations.
    Stepping back to a greater geologic time-scale is difficult for me, because so much of my connection with the land is based on familial history and personal experience. In other words, I see the farm as deeply important on my own, biological time scale. That said, it is interesting to research the historical geology of the lakes region in New Hampshire. Glaciers in the Quaternary period formed New Hampshire’s lake region approximately 14,000 years ago, their depositions manifesting as various landforms and rivers. Patterns of glacial advancement and recession caused the westward drainage of the Winnipesauke basin—of which Squam Lake is a part—and this is a pattern that persists today. The surrounding white mountains formed during the late Jurassic and early Cretaceous periods as Pangaea broke apart, giving rise to massive volcanoes that later cooled and eroded. My family has both hiked extensively through these mountains and admired their breathtaking beauty from the lake.
    Although I have only ever spent time contemplating the farm and its surrounding area on a biological, anthropocentric time-scale, I value the understanding of the land in a broader, more geological sense. I love to read about the greater-than-human processes that occurred over thousands—even millions—of years that shaped the beautiful land that I treasure today.

  7. Dakotah Kimbrough says:

    Anathoth Community Garden & Farm is located at the end of Lonesome Road in the rural, agricultural township of Cedar Grove, North Carolina. This place holds a special place in my heart because I have been a part of its growth, and it a part of mine, since I was 10 years old. The mission and origin of Anathoth is unique for a community garden, as it was engendered in the wake of a murder that shook the community along racial and class divisions. In response to the crime, a prayer vigil was held at the site where neighbors came together to grieve. Scenobia Taylor, an elder black woman present that night, later had a vision from God to donate land to foster community healing. She gave it to the local Methodist Church, which had a majority-white congregation, and conversations were held to determine what the land should be used for. At the time in 2004, a number of local farms were going through the tobacco buyout occurring in NC, and the issue of fresh and affordable food surfaced. Anathoth was thus created as a place not only to provide food for low-income, disabled, and otherwise marginalized populations in the area, but also as a sacred site where neighbors could come to learn and love one another as well as the land.
    The story of the garden is a story of the soil, and that is a long story indeed. Over millennia, topsoil was formed and ecosystems flourished in this landscape. The land is adjacent to the headwaters of the Eno River, being nourished by wetlands and springs. Situated on a slope that runs to a feeder creek, this site held an innate power as a crossroads for many forces. Understanding the hydro-geological systems that shaped and continue to influence this land can help us to be aware of the best and worst methods of tending to it. Such knowledge was held by the indigenous groups of this region including the Occaneechi-Saponi and Tuscarora nations, but today that is all but lost, save for the small tribal community left nearby.
    In this process of creating and growing life, Christianity plays a large role in framing the role and story of the garden. The name Anathoth itself is taken from a field mentioned in Jeremiah 29:5, which reads, “Plant gardens and eat what they produce,” and, “to seek the peace of the city of which I have carried you into exile”. This places the garden in a cyclical process, contrary to the linear paradigm so oft encountered in Judeo-Christian thought, of birth, life, death, and resurrection. We go to the garden to die so that we may be born anew in the good earth we have tended for each other. In the heat of a North Carolina summer, being aware that one is a part of such a beautiful cycle keeps one focused and humble.
    During my time at the garden, the passing of time through the seasons provides a distinct schedule for each. The spring is of course a period of life bursting forth from every inch of ground, and there is much work to be done seeding, weeding, and prepping beds for new growth. Summer sees the harvesting of spring crops, the planting of others, and constant watering, weeding, and pest management. The autumn is a winding down period, where most plantings are reaped and the beds prepped and cover-cropped for the cold winter. An awareness and connection to one’s food source is observed, and the rhythm of the seasons begins to inform the place of time in our lives.

  8. Rayna Berger says:

    Timeless Blue Ridge

    In understanding my home
    I understand myself.

    Perched, yet hidden
    The Blue Ridge holds a home for me.
    2 decades of myself
    20 years of my tears
    20 years of laughter.

    I’ve clamored effortlessly through her limbs
    As her thorns have pierced me
    During my raids for lush fruits.

    Raspberries puckered along her figure,
    As her honeysuckle scent swallowed me up.

    As the mountain matured,
    I became more acquainted with her curves.
    I learned of her wants,
    Her needs,
    Her desire to be cared for.

    I need her.
    She provides my sustenance.
    She is the air that I gasp for upon awaking.

    She is old, wise,
    And carried knowledge of years behind my time.
    Her stone visage is hard, yet we chip her away.
    Her love is never lost.

    I wish to care for her as she has me.
    To support my mother with the will she has given me.

    Fear for her survival presses my mind,
    Anxious to share her teachings with a world that will not listen,
    But will suckle at her breast,
    Reaping her nutrients,
    As if they were endless,
    As if they were for profit.

    I have learned so much in my 2 decades of life
    Let’s listen to the timeless knowledge she has for us.

  9. Thomas Wentworth says:

    Cumberland Island

    These still, white blankets
    Resting on fields in intermission
    Replace the cloudiness of desire with an evocative clarity
    Re-minding now of a place long ago, and long again
    Carrying along a cornucopia of sounds and sardines and sunrise.

    Looking down,
    The armadillo tracks are so clear through this absence of asphalt
    It is no stretch of the imagination that these same steps,
    Years of mutations and millions ago,
    Were taken by a strikingly similar animal,
    Through this same dirt,
    In Guinea instead of Georgia.

    Feeling forward,
    Focused eyes find a point,
    And with arms out,
    This childish abandon steps barefoot on the twisting of the Live oaks
    Icarus envious of the shade they cast
    This boardwalk heard my brother’s first word
    These palm fronds healed my father’s eyes.

    Smiling up,
    Body of bread soaking up the replenishing oils of sun and silence,
    Somber at the prospect of reducing into a new deficit,
    Joyous to know that I am
    Tracking the glinting bubble until it pops gently
    On the wing of a cicada,
    Who will sing us to sleep tonight.

    Here the blankets are still and white,
    Although the intermissions are too short
    With only time for a sand castle or a kite,
    Until the tide returns,
    To turn rocks and flesh back into stardust.

  10. Dinatalia Farina says:

    In Puerto Rico, about two hours west of the capital San Juan is a small city called Florida; pronounced flow-ree-dah. Within that city lives my grandmother, some aunts, uncles and cousins in neighboring areas. Geologically I do not know the time scale, but considering the history of the Taino Indians who were there before my family, and how rural and green the area is, I imagine homes were added recently. My grandmother’s house is around 10 years old. The house she lived in before is a couple hundred feet away from the one she is in now and that one has got to be around 20 or 30 years old. But the move in homes, shows a change in time. Summers were spent in Puerto Rico, and now not as much. This shows the significant rise in prices of air fare. Another factor is the lack of plumbing in the town that my grandmother lives in. She uses a septic tank and a big truck comes every week or so and empties it out into the major cities plumbing system.
    I do not know what formed the mountains behind my grandmother’s home, but I know that they were there before us and there’s no discrediting that. I would go into the mountains riding on a four wheeler, or just to go out there for a peaceful walk. Another factor of the part of Puerto Rico that my family lives in is the agriculture aspect. I remember my grandma telling me that her mother would be able to tell if the summer was going to be a rainy one if a certain plant never grew or started growing late. Those environmental aspects definitely play a factor in how things play out. I can also tell that time has gone by visiting every summer up until I was 12 or 13. Every summer, each experience was different and my personal development had a lot to do with that. Experiencing Puerto Rico at 9 years old is a lot different than experiencing it at 13 years old. Though, I still experienced the same playful aspect I would get in tune with every single time I visit.
    I’m 21 now, so going to Puerto Rico would be a complete different experience as well. Which is okay. The dynamic there has also changed because many of my family has considered moving to the state of Florida, so the part of PR that I am from is losing the community aspect which is also a time indicator. Again, all inevitable and bound to happen and I realize I am the one that is in control of my experience and am mindful of those before me and the plans to may or may not be there anymore.

  11. Lydia Waldo says:

    My place is located in the Ossipee Mountains of New Hampshire, tucked into the trees just beyond the shore of a small lake. Trails lead to local peaks, waterfalls, fields, and forests on which meaningful interactions take place. All experiences are guided by the shared goal of learning, growing, and becoming the best versions of ourselves. The use of electronics is discouraged, and instead days are filled with interpersonal, conscientious engagement and reflection that hone the skills necessary to become effective leaders and stewards of our future. The specific location adds to the wonder and magic that I feel whenever I go to this place, and makes it special to me, however I believe that similar goals can, and are, being achieved in different places too.

    Geologically, this place tells a unique story. Roughly 125mya during the Cretaceous period, the region was home to a stratovolcano that developed a ring dike complex. This geologic structure is formed when a magma chamber empties, altering the pressure inside the chamber, and the crustal rock collapses to form a caldera, or deep bowl shaped depression (Modell, 1936). Although there is no longer a volcano present today, remnants of the ring dike can be seen in satellite images. Learning how much history this place holds, particularly on a timescale spanning millions of years, makes me appreciate that even though I’ve been going to this place for more than half of my life, geologically that’s insignificant. During my lifetime, the Ossipee Mountains will always be the Ossipee Mountains, despite the transitions that have occurred and continue to occur over millions of years in this place.

    On a smaller timescale, in the range of decades and centuries, this place has been transformed over and over again, yet remains timeless to me. A building that is no longer, replaced by a new era of construction; remnants of the enkindled spirits that have gathered around the same campfire for almost a century; or the steady rise and fall of the waterline as the old dam at the end of the lake is opened as the leaves start to change color each autumn. The songs we sing change, based on whose singing, but remain the same in their tune and lyrics each time I return…but each time I return, I am different: carrying new memories, experiences, and ideas to offer and share.

    Citation in full:
    Modell, David. 1936. “Ring-Dike Complex of the Belknap Mountains. New Hampshire.” Geological Society of American Bulletin 47.12, p.1885-1932.

  12. Maeve Sherry says:

    The Saranac Lake area, at the center of the Adirondacks of New York, is somewhere that has amassed many layers of emotional ties and meanings to me. My story there begins as a kid during family camping trip over a decade ago. The network of lakes, mountains, trails, and crude campsites received its first stamp of memories when I was young enough to believe in a lake monster.

    I have returned to the Saranac area at many stages of my life since. Each time, it’s stamped by my current status in life and my thoughts of that time. Each time is also stamped differently because of the way my maturity and growth affect my perception of the experience I’m having.

    Although the majority of my lifetime has been influenced by this place, my 15 or so years of memory stamps is less than a grain of sand in comparison to the eventful geologic history of the Adirondacks. Carved by glaciers of greater mass than I can imagine, it’s always been humbling to retreat to this area and accept my insignificance relative to the geologic history of Saranac.

    However, in the timescale of today and tomorrow, I can have a great impact. There are lots of current efforts in the Adirondacks to keep the park in good shape. For me, my place in Saranac starts with picking up trash as I hike or camp. Although a handful of plastic wrappers is incomprehensibly irrelevant to tens-to-hundreds of thousands of years in the future, I hope it can make the experience a little better for someone else who comes after me.

  13. Elizabeth Roginkin says:

    A little black-haired boy walks slowly along a beach; his cheeks are marked with the rosiness of childhood, and his eyes sparkle with the curiosity brought about by new experiences. The sun has just started to set, but his toes indent the sand still warm from the heat of the day. As he gets closer to shore, his steps become slower, and more deliberate, until he stops completely and stares transfixed towards the ocean. His eyes lock at a point by the shore, where a seagull pecks at a washed up crab. All is calm, and all is serene – almost as if it always has been.

    In reality, this beach – Conference House Park Beach on the southernmost point of both Staten Island and New York State – like most places, is ever changing. Over the course of my time living on Staten Island, I have experienced the beach through changing seasons, changing years, and even through natural disasters. The beautiful beach my five-year-old cousin knows today, and his perception of it, only exists as a result of an extensive restoration process that returned the torn up landscape of destruction left in the wake of Hurricane Sandy’s fury into a place once again familiar and aesthetically pleasing. Unlike myself, and others old enough, my cousin has no memory of the trees torn down by the storm that provided much needed shade on hot summer days, or the houses lining the shore that were mostly flooded past the point of salvation and then subsequently torn down. My cousin’s only memory is the now – the beach’s present day incarnation and no sense of how the destructive forces of nature can indiscriminately completely transform even one’s most beloved places. In essence, the only permanence is transience.

    Temporal Scales are crucial to understanding place as knowing the history of a place may give significant insight into its future. Much of Hurricane Sandy’s devastation was related to the fact that houses were built along areas naturally prone to flooding. Although beachfront development is economically encouraged, not enough planning goes into preventing the type of inevitable ruin that 100+ year storms like Hurricane Sandy bring. Acknowledging that high intensity storms are statistically likely to occur again, and only increase in frequency over time should have led to prudent future preventative action. Unfortunately however, rather than preventing people from rebuilding their destroyed homes, and designating vulnerable coastal areas as protected places exempt from development, homeowners along the shore were allowed to reconstruct their flooded homes. Although temporary berns are being built in order to offer some future protection – the very name of the project “Conference House Beach Temporary Berm Reconstruction,” implies that it is not a permanent solution, and that time and other factors may render it void.

    In class we discussed the idea that we never enter the same room twice – either the room or ourselves as individuals have changed in some way. Personally, I know that if I were to move away and never return to Conference House Park Beach, it would likely unchanged in my mind – frozen in whatever incarnation I last saw it – still the same “room” it was when I last entered. However, understanding temporal scales allows me to better come to terms with the dynamic nature of the world around me as it pertains to both my daily life, and the future strategies I employ as a potential environmental actor and leader.


    “Conference House Beach Temporary Berm Reconstruction.” NYC Parks. New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, n.d. Web. 29 June 2017. .

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