To Love (our places) As We Are Loved
What does it really mean to “love your place”?
By Marnie Klassen, Urban Agriculture Coordinator (Summer, 2023)
July 4, 2023
If you’ve been hanging around A Rocha for a little while, you’ve probably heard someone use the phrase love your place. I’ve heard this phrase countless times (I’ve been connected with A Rocha Canada for about six years now), and even painted it onto a protest sign that I use at climate rallies and marches.
But what does it really mean to love your place? What is your place? How do you define it? And how do you really love it well anyway?
This summer, I’m loving my place by growing vegetables on a small piece of land in central Winnipeg – on behalf of A Rocha, I’m coordinating the Just Growing Gardens at Saint Margaret’s Anglican Church, growing food for folks living in supportive housing in my own neighbourhood.
But I’m also looking critically at that repeated phrase – ‘love your place.’ And I’m not looking at it alone!
Almost three weeks ago, A Rocha Manitoba hosted our first annual creation care conference, ‘Be Not Afraid – Consider the Lilies,’ in partnership with Saint Margaret’s Anglican Church. An enthusiastic team worked for months to put it together, iron out the logistical wrinkles, find excellent speakers and presenters, and arrange for scrumptious catering. And it was a wonderful experience!
Personally, I really enjoyed meeting other people of faith who also care about creation and climate change.
I also really appreciated having a space to examine that little phrase we use so often; love your place.
On the Saturday morning of the conference, I attended a really stimulating workshop, “Climate Change and Solidarity from Global to Local” with Anupama Ranawana and Ryan Turnbull. At the workshop, Ryan talked about the idea of ‘shadow places.’*A shadow place is a physical location that is connected to the place where I live – although it is a different location, it often suffers negative consequences due to my actions in my place.
So for example, I live in Wolseley, Winnipeg, so that’s my place. But one of my shadow places is Shoal Lake 40, an indigenous community on Shoal Lake where Winnipeg’s water comes from. The community of Shoal Lake 40 was on a boil water advisory for many years, despite providing clean water to the city of Winnipeg. This physical connection and the injustice related to it made Shoal Lake 40 one of my shadow places.**
Our places are always implicated in the realities and injustices of other places. Where our water comes from. Where our fuel or electricity comes from. Where our clothes are made, our food is grown, our cars manufactured. These are our shadow places.
What does it mean to “Love your Place”?
So taking into consideration this learning from ‘Be Not Afraid – Consider the Lilies,’ what does it really mean to love your place?
For me, it means getting to know the gardens along the alley behind Saint Margaret’s Anglican where I garden. Loving my place means learning where the creeping bellflower comes up quickest, which boxes the neighbourhood cats most like to poop in (yuck!), where the sun hits for most of the day and where it hits only in the afternoon. It also means recognizing my shadow places – where the water and seeds and tools come from, but also where the runoff goes (through the sewer and into the Assiniboine river) and where the compost and garbage will end up.
Love your place means to recognize the places we inhabit and move through as places that God loves. It means to do what we can to love those places as God loves them, and to make them into places hospitable to a God of love. It means recognizing the shadow places we’re connected to and working to make those places more just, equitable, and beautiful.
Loving your place can look like gardening, or walking, or sitting on your front stoop with a morning cup of jo. But it must also look like thinking critically about the places your place is connected to, both justly and unjustly. Loving your place means naming your place and getting to know it, intimately, with patience and grace and curiosity.
Featured photo: Marnie Klassen
Other photos: Marnie Klassen and Zoe Matties