Jan/Feb 2020Directionsby Robert Boyles, Interim Director, SCDNR

Robert H. Boyles, Jr., Interim Director

I was recently asked to speak about a "sense of place" at a gathering of natural resources professionals from around the country. Specifically, what is it that makes a particular locale have a certain "feel" or (for the city-dweller) "vibe," and how do we support stewardship of these special places. Reflecting on my own experiences and the many special places that can be found throughout South Carolina, it occurred to me that one might capture a sense of place by considering three components: creation, construction and connection.

I submit that the first element of what makes a place special would be the natural qualities that define it. Creation might represent the qualities where a keen observer would recognize those gifts that have been bestowed upon us by our Creator, gifts such as the mighty Atlantic Ocean, the silent bottomland swamps, the rivers that course through our landscape, or the Blue Wall of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Secondly, the places on the map that are special to each of us are not all wild and unaltered. I suspect that many of us harbor warm thoughts of the magical places we have built across the state — from small farming crossroads to courthouse towns and even cities. These places of construction are where our forebears made intentional investments for a more comfortable life. More harshly, even places such as the Santee Delta and the fabled ACE Basin — thought by many to be unaltered wilderness — are, in actuality, constructed landscapes. These vast areas of managed wetlands bear the marks of rice and indigo production in a land transformed by the toil of thousands of enslaved men and women.

Finally, I think a sense of place is a function of the many relationships — family, friends, neighbors near and far — that have been nurtured in the special places around South Carolina. Connection between and among the special people in our lives is the critical ingredient, I believe, in what creates a sense of place. Perhaps these bonds have been forged around a kitchen table or a hearth, on a front porch, in a remote field or stand of pines or in a boat. Regardless, connections are touchstones in a life defined in special places, by special people.

This issue of South Carolina Wildlife contains stories that particularly touch on these elements. As we look forward to the new year and exploring new places, I wish you and yours a renewed sense of wonder and appreciation for the sense of place that can be found in the special state we call home.

 

- Robert H. Boyles, Jr., Interim Director
South Carolina Wildlife

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