Guest Blogger: Joan Arnott

Beth Sander’s quote on her website initially got me thinking about place quite awhile ago.  Here is the quote –

 ‘Do you think of your city as your habitat?’

Then last September, I participated in a webinar where Marilyn was introducing Integral City to Integral Without Borders. I wrote this note to Marilyn –

The piece I took away from the session and I am still paying attention to is about the City of Surrey, BC, Canada, where I live.  Telling my story about early years living in Surrey was quite revealing.  It was a time when I loved where I lived and felt very fortunate and connected.  I realized that now, years later, I feel quite disconnected from North Surrey, like a gap in between South Surrey.  I also I noticed the sadness I feel when I see the agricultural land and huge tracks of treed areas being so rapidly replaced by dense condos and townhouses etc.  Some of the trees are large and quite old, like old friends to me. Occasionally, I have a good cry when I see how thoughtlessly the trees have been cut down and discarded.  I will continue to work the energy with the Spirit of the City and pay attention to filling out my wholehearted relationship with place and all of Surrey.  Good one Marilyn!  How can I truly be part of our core team without having the holy ness of living in my residing city :- )  When people ask me where I live, I want to respond lovingly in a way that includes both the light and the underbelly of my city.

Since then I have been paying attention to my local area and writing notes about my living place, our neighbourhood and my relationship with the city where I live. It’s a new relationship!  Here are some of the ways I am changing my relationships.

  1. In the last ten years, our neighbourhood population has morphed from a cultural mix of people into one of about 85 % Asian people, many of whom speak very limited English.  The cul-de-sac in which I live has seven homes and all are occupied by Asian folks who have moved here from China or Korea in the last 1 – 5 years.  I was beginning to feel isolated.  I decided to intentionally practice casually getting to know more about the people who live in and around my neighbourhood and this is proving fruitful. The response is encouraging.  My sense of place is growing.
  2. Now when I go for a walk around my neighbourhood or in our local urban forest, I purposefully say hello to all and practice engaging in conversation as opportunity arises or I just simply wave and smile. Gradually, I am able to connect people and faces to their homes.  Before there was just houses and driveways and enclosed garages.
  3. I am also more aware of how much the newer arrivals spend time caring for their homes and surrounding yards.  They tell me they are grateful for the clear air and especially that their children can play outside.
  4. My next-door neighbour, Kathy, haltingly told me a story about the city in China where she was born and still has a home.  It has been known as a city for over 2700 years.  I was imagining a little child’s feet first connecting with the earth in a city that is that old.  Imagine the energy vibration of that! wow!  How might that shape a sense of place and early connectedness?
  5. Yesterday I met a man called Michael and his little 3 year old daughter Annabelle. I suggested that his placard saying ‘children playing’ could be moved closer to the edge of his property so it could be better seen by cars coming around the corner.  He liked that.  I was glad about that too.  Little things matter to me, especially things that help keep children safe.

I am enjoying the growing relationship with my neighbourhood and the City of Surrey.  I am more aware of how my voice sounds when I respond to people asking me where I live.  My sense of place is getting more rooted.