poetry and prose about place

growing and gathering – a sense of place

with 16 comments

The theme of eating local foods has its essence in the idea of ‘place’.  The book ‘The 100 Mile Diet – A Year of Local Eating’ by Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon (2007), introduced many to the idea of eating foods grown within a certain radius of home.  Eating local is also place-based in terms of the settings we associate with local foods – the woods, the blueberry field, the home garden, the local farm, the roadside stand, and, of course, the farmers market are all places associated with obtaining food from local sources.

‘Place’ is a complex topic.  Most of my poems about ‘growing and gathering’ include at least a little information about the ‘place’ where foods are found.  Some poems, however, are specifically about ‘place’, and I want to group these together in my manuscript.

The poems I will include under the theme of ‘place’ will be focused on habitat, landscape, local food traditions, and the people-based concept of ‘home’.


1.  the ‘place’ where plants grow

Plants, of course, depend on their habitat to live.  The ideal ‘place’ for a plant is determined by the availability of moisture, light and nutrients.  These factors are, in part, the result of climate, soil type, slope, exposure, and interactions with other plants and animals.  In my collection, I have poems about the habitat of seaside plants, the need for water in landscapes where water is scarce, and why woodland plants often bloom in the early spring, when light is most available.

2.  plants shape their surroundings and their landscape

Plants create habitat, modifying the regimes of moisture, light and nutrients in a local space.  Plants also help to create the broader landscape.  I have poems about how ripening apples change the space under an apple tree, how large and small-scale characteristics affect the value of a property, and how plants contribute to the way landscape appears.

3.  ‘place-based’ food traditions

As a result of the interaction between wild life and the landscape, people have access to different kinds of foods and develop area-specific wild food traditions.  In New Brunswick, fiddleheads of the Ostrich Fern (Matteuccia Struthiopteris (L.) Todaro) are abundant in the spring, along the banks of rivers and wetlands, and many New Brunswickers consider a feed of cooked fiddleheads to be a rite of spring.  In Newfoundland, a relative of the blackberry, the Bakeapple (Rubus Chamaemorus L.), is common in the bogs and barrens.  Children often stand beside the road, their arms out-stretched, to sell their bottles of yellow Bakeapples packed in water.  I have poems about these two local foods as well as others about traditional local foods.

4.  ‘place’ as a metaphor for home

Plants and their ‘place’ can be a metaphor for the relationships between humans and the spaces where they are raised, or where they live.  ‘Place’ may imply ‘home’ and ideas of belonging or familiarity.  Several of my poems are about this aspect of ‘place’.

As I am working on the theme of ‘place’, a song by the 1990’s band Toad the Wet Sprocket is going around in my head:

‘…show me your home
Not the place where you live
But the place where you belong…’

Toad the Wet Sprocket, ‘Something to Say’, Fear, 1991

Exploring the theme of ‘place’ with you has helped me to organise my poems, to revise them, and to understand that I still have a few poems to write toward my manuscript.  I am so grateful for this blog and for all my readers!





a veil draped across bones of the earth

pointed tents supported by forest

settles in pockets, lichens and moss


beneath the cloth is texture, the way

I know life on the land, fast or slow,

near or far, through clear eyes or through tears


to know form follows function –  practice

repeated, detailed observation

see the sweep of a field of brambles

also the berries, also the thorns


Published as ‘landscape’ on September 3, 2011


©  Jane Tims  2012

16 Responses

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  1. I think this is one of my favorite posts, Jane. Place is something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately.
    Love this line: “a veil draped across bones of the earth”



    August 14, 2012 at 9:36 am

    • Hi. Thanks! I am not surprised since your work is very much based on place. I think that travelling makes us think about ‘place’… I remember when we went to Wyoming in 2002, I thought for months about how different our various spaces are. Jane


      jane tims

      August 14, 2012 at 6:02 pm

  2. Beautiful Post, Jane. As Watching Seasons summarized, place is so “personal and important.” Very emotional for me as well. As you say in your lovely poem, “through clear eyes or through tears…” Blessings, Ellen


    Ellen Grace Olinger

    August 13, 2012 at 8:54 am

  3. I love visiting your blog – always so beautiful and insightful.



    August 13, 2012 at 6:53 am

  4. I really enjoyed this post. I find myself getting more and more interested in eating local, traditional foods–though I have a long way to go.



    August 13, 2012 at 12:33 am

    • Hi Sheryl. Your study of your grandmother’s diary has made you very aware of local foods. Jane


      jane tims

      August 13, 2012 at 8:21 am

  5. Jane, I could say so much about this post, but I will try to keep it simple: yes, yes, and yes. Place fascinates me as well, and I’m always unnecessarily surprised to learn that I am one of many who think in this direction. 🙂 Particularly enjoyed the cadence in those last two lines of your poem: “the sweep of a field of brambles/also the berries, also the thorns.”



    August 12, 2012 at 6:56 pm

    • Hi. Thanks for you comment. When people move around or travel, they become more aware of the subtle differences in ‘place’. Jane


      jane tims

      August 13, 2012 at 8:19 am

  6. Lovely to see your ideas on my favourite topic of place Jane! Toad the Wet Sprocket is the best name for a band I have heard – I shall have to check them out. The poem is wonderful and the landscape photos are a perfect match.



    August 11, 2012 at 6:01 am

    • Hi. Do check them out… their best known song is ‘Walk by the Ocean’. Very fine lyrics. Jane


      jane tims

      August 11, 2012 at 10:24 pm

  7. I really enjoyed this analysis, Jane. It helps me think of plants from a different perspective. And I love the lines from the song you quoted – your home, the place where you belong. So true.


    Jane Fritz

    August 10, 2012 at 10:16 am

    • Hi Jane. ‘Toad the Wet Sprocket’ was one of those alternative bands from the late 80s/early 90s and I love their lyrics. Song lyrics are sometimes the best poetry. Jane


      jane tims

      August 10, 2012 at 8:13 pm

  8. Place is a very personal and important concept. Nice essay, Jane.


    Watching Seasons

    August 10, 2012 at 10:14 am

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