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MEEKER | What is it about a location that makes one blurt out, “I love this place”? It pops up in conversation time and again, particularly if the individual saying it is revisiting an old favorite spot after a long absence. Holidays and three-day weekends lend themselves to traveling to both new and old places, where somewhere on the journey they may hear this time and again from fellow travelers.
This proclamation is most often place specific. You see those I Love __________ bumper stickers and signs on cars everywhere. No one qualifies what it is about those places that makes it feel like home. They usually love the scenic vistas most of all, as well as the comfortable and familiar feelings that come over them as soon as they settle in for a bit for a much needed break.
Yet anyone who lives and works near any of the top 10 most visited spots in the nation say too much love is making a yearly problem worse. Increases in people, especially after the pandemic, bring too much traffic, decrease the amount of space, and create mounds of litter. Most of the top 10 most visited places admit that they are working on getting a handle on these problems, but with decreased funding for the national and state parks, they haven’t got a solid grip on it yet. Unqualified adoration for a place doesn’t help unless it results in a commitment to “put your money where your mouth is” and work with others who feel as strongly. Fidelity to a place is as important as standing by doing nothing.
The other day I happened to hear a woman tell a friend, “I just love this place,” as she walked by a mound of litter and moved over to let a large group of slow moving bikers riding in the middle of the path pass. She and her friend continued their conversation as they walked by me. I looked around. I didn’t see much of anything that appeared to earn such merit. I had once loved this popular trail, too. The sign that none of us seemed to read was old and familiar as well. Leave nothing. Pack out everything you pack in. The unspoken assumption was all of us still cared about places we loved.
Geographical places of the heart are very different from the roller coaster ride we are all experiencing with our relationships with people. When it appears that we love a place too much, there is always a resolution we can reach to stay true to the places that have been so important to all of us over the years. Fidelity to both people and places requires a lifelong commitment. This includes doing our part to take care of a place, whether it involves giving more time or money to continue to have it stay so important to everybody. I still love this place should be the phrase we will continue to hear for many years.
We can’t love any place too much if we change how we show that love.
By DOLLY VISCARDI – Special to the Herald Times