Place Matters


Jennifer Acker argues the value of literature and essays in preserving a sense of place @ The New Inquiry.
At the end of the eighties, when I was in middle school, a development threatened a parcel of land a half-mile down the road from my house in Whitefield, Maine. The town held a public forum for residents to air their concerns, and my parents took me along. Our neighbor Edmund Blaney was also at the meeting, held in the windowless basement of the town hall. The Blaneys owned a generations-old commercial apple orchard, and, as we were the only girls our age around for miles, their daughter Maggie was my frequent playmate. In most matters, the Blaneys and my parents, who were not from Maine but had moved there from California in the seventies, held opposing views, but about the development they were of one mind. They were against it.As I remember it, my parents objected on environmental and preservationist grounds. Edmund argued that the increased traffic the development would bring would cause more accidents at the already dangerous intersection at the end of our road. The noise and pollution, he said, would also negatively impact our stretch of road, where both Edmund and his wife had grown up and where their parents and siblings still lived. Though my parents and I were smack in the middle of Blaney-land, the character of our road mattered deeply to all of us, and I remember feeling relieved that the development had as strong an opponent as Edmund. People would pay attention to him because he was from there. He was also a big man with a deep voice.
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