Bay Nature magazineOctober-December 2006


Book Review: Exploring a Sense of Place

October 1, 2006

Exploring a Sense of Place: How to Create Your Own Local Program for Reconnecting with Nature, by Karen Harwell and Joanna Reynolds. Self-Published, 2006, 92 pages, $25.00

Ask yourself these questions: On what day are the shadows shortest where you live? From what direction do winter storms arrive? I did, and the answers required some thought. And that’s where Harwell and Reynolds’ Exploring a Sense of Place steps in: to provide a tool “to create your own local program for reconnecting with nature,” based on the successful model that the authors created in and around Palo Alto. Too often we’re so caught up in our lives that, while we leave footprints outdoors, we’re resistant to the outdoors leaving its footprints on us. Such natural imprinting is what the Sense of Place programs are all about. The principles of the program are simple: gather on a regular basis with a group of like-minded individuals—friends, neighbors, community members—to first learn about a facet of your natural world in a classroom/lecture setting, then experience it firsthand through field exploration. The first Friday of November, say, you meet at someone’s house to learn about the survival strategies of wild animals in wintertime. The next morning, you all take a hike to a nearby wood to observe the squirrels and jays caching acorns for the coming cold weather. Simple, yes? But how often have you undertaken such a project on your own? This Sense of Place guidebook walks you through the steps—mental and physical—that will help you design your own program, from picking a bioregion within which to explore (watershed? neighborhood?) to recruiting sponsors and speakers to scheduling and budgeting. Before you know it, you won’t skip a beat the next time someone asks you: When do the deer rut in your region?

About the Author

Matthew Bettelheim is a freelance writer and a wildlife biologist with URS Corporation.