"Toward new, rich stories"
June 9, 2008 · Updated 3:42 PM
"In 1942, as many members of a small island community were taken from their homes by order of the federal government, a lone newspaper editor stood up and said, This is wrong. These are our neighbors, and they belong here among us.It's a story that grows richer with each telling, and contributes more than any other to Bainbridge Island's sense of place. And we suspect the life of Walt Woodward - whose passing we will mourn at memorial services this weekend - is the sort of tale that Scott Russell Sanders would applaud.Sanders spoke to a good crowd at the Playhouse Friday evening as part of the current humanities inquiry series. The author reminded of us of the importance of our local culture, our lore, our environment as the elements binding us together as residents and citizens. Even as we guard our individuality, he said, we need to nurture and share the uniqueness of our community, the sense of place that sets Bainbridge Island apart from Anywhere, U.S.A.We need to know where we are, Sanders said, so that we may dwell in our place with a full heart.Community, he noted, is rooted in the concept of common - not that which is ordinary or plain, but which is shared. With a naturalist's eye for the ties between people and the environment, Sanders urged a reverence of the land not as commodity, but rather as a resource to which we all belong and to which we shall return.Undermining the goals of community? A personal mobility that facilitates and encourages transience, as we hop from one job market to the next; the homogenization of the commercial landscape, a la McDonald's (here), Starbucks (thought of coming here, but went elsewhere) and Papa Murphy's (kicked in the door, then wandered off); and the temptation to disappear into the solitude of the virtual world of the Internet and the multiplex.When you are in the virtual world, you are literally no place, Sanders said.On many points, Bainbridge Island acquits itself well; in others, we see ourselves succumbing to a creeping sameness, which explains some of the anxiety about growth and change. Sanders, though, cautioned against a community becoming too insular - most of us were new residents at some point, and all have something to contribute. For Sanders, land becomes a place when it has people's stories lain upon it, their tales and accomplishments.We reflected: What new stories are being written that will bind Bainbridge Islanders together 50 years from now? The Williams Center, the new aquatic facility, efforts to preserve farmland and forests. There are surely others.We hope a transcript of Sanders' address is made available at the library, and that his presentation is shown on the local cable channel. It was insightful, inspiring.This week, we mourn the passing of a great figure in island history. Who now will aspire to great achievement, and how?More than people who will write our stories, we need people who will inspire them. "