Why do we like to return to the same places?

I sat on this spot yesterday on a short walk to a familiar place and returned there on my way back an hour or so later. By this time, all the colours had left the world and all the edges were starting to blur (my favourite time of day). It was clearly the same place, yet also very different. There’s a comfort and reassurance in returning to places even when we and they, are very changed.

I was reminded of this fragment that I wrote in a notebook 35 years ago:

‘I always re-trace old steps
Old movements, recapture old moods…’

It seems I am not alone in this.

I read yesterday that WH Hudson would ride out into the wilderness for hours each day and always stop at the same spot in a particular copse of trees. I also read that Martin Heidegger would visit a particular bench in a wood. He would even picture the bench in his head and return to it whenever he had a particularly difficult problem to solve.

  • Why do you think we like to return?
  • Do you have a place that you return to regularly, either in reality or in your head?

It seems very natural to connect a place to a feeling, thought or experience. This has become a key part of the experience of a ‘walk in development’. In my walks with Stephen certain spaces have gained a particular and a shared meaning.

We try to tackle the things that bother us at a ‘grappling gate’. Often we get stuck on a ‘story track’, where we forget to listen and have to bring ourselves back over a ‘bridge of simplicity’ which we only allow ourselves to cross when we have reminded ourselves of the beauty that lies in simplicity and we have a ‘“why don’t you?” bench’ where we encourage ourselves to take a next step we may have been fearful of.

  • Do you have spaces that have a similar meaning?
  • If you could transport yourself instantly to a particular space, where would you choose?

I think I’d choose this spot that happens to be a mile or so from yesterday’s wall:

I don’t know how often I came to this spot in the years that I grew up in the valley beneath these hills but the place has become important to my sense of self. Indeed it has so much significance to me that I’ve not been back that often. It felt a bit self-indulgent wanting to relive moments from a very distant time. However, I remembered on this last visit that part of the experience of growing up is beginning to feel the passing of time. I recalled that I was acutely aware of this as I watched the sun set over the sea in my teenage years.

I’ve realised that, for me, part of the attraction of returning has to do with sitting still with continuity and change. I feel more than a little reassured that I can still connect with the young, barefoot version of myself that walked through these woods and over these hills years ago. I’d like to think that, if we were able to step through the veil of time, we might still recognise each other.

— —

This is our moment is a practical enquiry into the nature of authentic creative development. It is a record of a journey in development and a resource to inspire further development. I hope it will help us find our moments and allow them to shape our future selves.

  • Do you have places that have a similar significance for you?
  • Can you describe the moments when that significance became apparent?
  • Is there a particular moment you would like to connect to?

Please feel free to share

  • What are your moments?
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