Settling down among restless AmericansEssayist Scott Sanders hopes we all find our own sense of place.
June 9, 2008 · Updated 3:41 PM
"Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home.Americans may pay the sentiment lip service, but Scott Russell Sanders believes that the Stephen Foster lyrics do not resonate as they might with the people he calls this nation of restless movers.Novelist/essayist Sanders, whose down-to-earth demeanor belies a distinguished resume, stresses the importance of staying put when he lectures on The Character of Community March 16 at the Playhouse. The discussion is part of the ongoing humanities inquiry, Culture and the American Character.In lucid essays, Sanders equates lack of roots with ecological carelessness and staying put with developing the sense of place Sanders considers essential to stewardship. Every place needs people to come together to articulate what matters about it. None of us, as individuals, can guarantee the preservation of species, the drinkable water, the breathable air that give our lives meaning, Sanders said. Only if people have a shared sense of place can they work to preserve it. That's why it's so important to have a forum like the humanities inquiry. Sanders is quick to point out that he has not come to Bainbridge to tell islanders about their home, but to share with them what has gone into his own development of a sense of place, and to urge people to acquire that for themselves.He acknowledges the lure of the road, though, and traces the theme through American history and culture, not concealing his own yearnings. Sanders' travels took him from a Tennessee boyhood to an adolescence in Ohio; from Rhode Island, where he studied physics and english at Brown University - graduating first in his class - to Cambridge University; from Massachusetts and residences at Phillips Exeter Academy and MIT, to Indiana.The problem in the Midwest, Sanders said, is that without your spectacular scenery or what a big eastern city can offer, many people feel that they are no place in particular. Sanders' point, he says, is that wherever one is, one can make a home; each community, state, river and watershed deserves loving attention. By staying put in a small place, we can have a bigger impact on the quality of life there than in a big city, Sanders said. It's more important for a small place that it have people committed to that place, because they can make a bigger difference.Sanders reads and signs his newest book, The Force of Spirit, 7:30 p.m. March 15 at Eagle Harbor Book Company and lectures on The Character of Community for the Bainbridge Island Arts and Humanities Council humanities inquiry 7:30 p.m. March 16 at The Playhouse. Lecture tickets are $10, available at the door (842-8569) or in advance (842-701). For information about the Sanders lecture, go online to www.artshum.org. "