No place like home...or is there?
By definition, "Genius Loci" is part of the Roman concept of every place having its' own independent life, or spirit. In this case, it pays more attention to what an object is, or what it means to people. So, in retrospect, when I refer to Genius Loci, I am mentioning it as less of an actual place, but more the feeling of what this space means to me.
My own Genius Loci? Up at a rustic cabin in the middle of the Chequamegon National Forest, northern Wisconsin. This is an easy answer. I would have had this answer at 8 years old, nevermind that I probably would not have understood the concept. But that's what makes my answer so right, because I don't have to understand old Roman beliefs in order to know what place has the most spirit and meaning in my life. Ever since I can remember my family makes trips up to the cabin, the most remote place in the world that I can think of. This historical background obviously contributes to my nostalgic longing, a place I was born with and raised with. The cabin is located on a tiny lake, surrounded by few people and miles of national forest. The trees, the heart and soul of my Genius Loci, are a transition mix between deciduous and coniferous. The cabin itself is very small, no running water, no air conditioning or heating, and very old. Although I could launch into detail, describing every tree/bush/square inch of this place, I will refrain for the sake of whomever has the misfortune of reading this.
Every object and space triggers some sort of feeling or memory; it is almost an overwhelming sensation, trying to organize it all. For example, the lake; a small, isolated body of water colored a dark amber brown from all the mineral deposits that flow into it. The bottom of the lake was always mucky and weedy, and it never got particularily deep (even in the middle). I think about swimming in it when I was a kid, squeamish about the leeches I knew I'd be extracting from my feet later, or imagine the fish nibbling at my toes. I entertained all sorts of horrors in my imagination, but yet I kept diving in (and I still do...still afraid of the leeches though). There were the summers, where our trips to the cabin were the most frequent- the bugs are so terrible, that often we were forced to stay indoors on the most beautiful of days because we'd risk getting eaten alive otherwise. I would come home after the weekend trip, covered in itchy welts and sunburn. My cousins and I would take out the orange canoe, a virtually indestructable piece of plastic that would guarantee not to get you anywhere very quickly. We'd fish, even though I hated fishing, and we'd tip the canoe, even though we never quite figured out how to flip it back over. In the fall, which is the best time of year, the leaves change and the ground in the clearings are covered thick with a rust, brown, red, orange, and yellow carpet of leaves. I remember hunting with my dad, crawling through the reeds and cattails on a stalk on one of the duck ponds. My dad always worried about me getting cold, and even when I did, I wouldn't admit it. I hated thinking that he would feel bad about the fact I was cold. I still have a hard time admitting I'm cold, even when I'm not hunting. Winters isolated the cabin even worse with the massive amounts of snow. The roads were so rural they didn't get plowed, and we'd have to haul all of our stuff in on snowshoes and sleds. It was easily a 3/4 mile walk one way. We'd go snowshoeing across the lake at night, the moon reflecting off the snow so brightly we could see herds of deer running half a mile away. Nighttime at the cabin scared me (cougars, bears, porcupine...whatever tortured my imagination), but my parents, aunts, or uncles would be so comfortable and loud I couldn't help but feel safe.
My memories, thoughts, and feelings are endless on my Genius Loci; I cannot exactly say that they are all as nicely categorized as the above. Since I have no idea where to end, I will do so here, and keep most of my private moments to myself; in a way, it is too revealing to share these innermost thoughts. I think it is the mystery in the spirit of a place.