Reflections on place (1) – living urban and feeling a sense of place
I am going to try for at least a monthly reflection on what it means to me to live in a big city. This is the first.
Having finally reached the 2-week mark of living in our new urban setting, I am finding myself prepared to begin my reflections on what it might mean to me to live in a city. We have a cocoon of a home, located in a nice, middle class neighborhood near shopping and major cross-roads. You don’t realize the importance of cross roads until you want to tell others where you live. They can place you by the cross streets in much the same way that rivers, trees and hills marked the location of our villages in the past. People nod with understanding when you tell them your cross streets.
Although a neighborhood resembles a small town, streets with a variety of (covenant protected) houses with parking and walking paths, shops and services, it lacks the knowledge of each other that small towns have. I find it ironic that the covenants so valued by neighborhoods in the city create homes that all resemble each other, very similar to HUD housing on our reservations. Paint colors, similar windows and doors, roofs and other characteristics remind me of the cluster housing brought to our reservations in the 1960’s and which are still the norm today.
It took time but our people have objected to the lack of choice in housing on our reservations. They have also objected to how location of housing in an environment where housing is limited created situations where families were forced to move from their communities of relatives to live next door to people they had limited connection to. Connections may evolve over time but they are not naturally present in those settings. That is true in the city as well, connections must be made deliberately, the setting doesn’t create connections naturally. The neighborhoods like the one we live in are not naturally conducive to relationships.
I am lucky because I have relatives here including an aunt and uncle, John and Joyce Compton and their family and the family of my late Uncle Sidney and Aunt Dolly Whiting, I look forward to spending time with them. We will never have to be lonely not only because of them but because lots of Indians live in Denver.
I appreciate the location of Denver, between the mountains and plains, embedded is a diverse landscape with access to the food systems of the west. When I am taking a walk, or driving somewhere, there are open spaces and lovely views of the mountains, truly majestic in their presence. We are close enough to Rosebud to just get in the car and be home in hours, close enough to our grandchildren to be an easy day’s drive. We can fly anywhere.
We are getting ready to reach out to others who have made a life for themselves here. They will guide us on this path, giving us advice and support, be our friends and relatives. We anticipate they have a sense of place.