Last year, we entertained the notion of “displacement” as a theme for Volume 8 and, at the time, it seemed especially appropriate. The world had witnessed the mass displacements of people following the Indian Ocean tsunami, after devastating earthquakes, and in the United States following hurricane Katrina. Ongoing conflicts continued to force large scale migrations and, along the U.S. border, hundreds of migrants were dying each year in the American deserts. We expected a lot of people to have displacement on their minds.
But as we sifted through the hundreds of submissions we received, we began to see other possibilities. Among the selections we liked most, a more complex and subtle theme emerged. While many of the pieces we chose do suggest displacement, they even more strongly evoke how our sense of place grows from and through personal relationships and evolving identities. On one hand, we experience places as somehow separate from ourselves—uniquely arranged spaces that we enter, where we exist, and from which we depart. But people (including ourselves) also comprise part of these arrangements in space. Our relationships to places are deeply connected to, if not mediated through, our relationships with people. Our selections for this issue reflect this complex recursive connection between identity, place, and personal relationships.
In Kreg Abshire’s “The Fall Line,” we find feelings of family enmeshed with a familiar place but also powerful symbols of movement and displacement: the river, and a child’s impatient roaming. The Van Werts’ poems give us detailed understandings of place that only make sense through the lens of the father-son relationship, and yet themes of migration, loss, and death remind us of the transience in our world. Karen Paiva’s displacement from Florida to Pennsylvania to care for her dying mother led her to embrace and embed herself in a new location. In her paintings, people and the landscape seem inseparable. Mark Hummel, offering us part of his “Water Cycle” series, binds place to people as surely as Michael Ratcliffe does in his poem, “Jessup,” though the two pieces are, in many ways, aesthetic opposites. In “The Rift,” the line between person and place often blurs, with delightful or tragic consequences.
A few of the pieces here dwell more on the displacement end of the axis than others, and these include Eggert-Crowe’s “Santa Cruz River, Dry After a Storm,” Komives’ “Letherhome Bridge,” and Goodland’s “Place Time.” Brian Marks’ interview with the Beehive Collective reminds us about people, places, and identities that are often left out of public political discourse. But what all these works share, as we noted above, is a deep appreciation for the idea that place and people are inseparable.
As we move through space, our own movements and existence help constitute place in all the forms it can take. For one, it might be how water in a riverbed becomes a lover to be seduced. For another, it might be how the sound of a young girl’s flute echoes the meandering terraces of a deep canyon. For you, the reader, in this issue of you are here, it will be all these things and more. We hope you enjoy this edition as much as we have.
© 2009 you are here and the department of geography and regional development at the university of arizona