May 6, 2013

The Seventh Sense. ~ JoAnn Stak Bregnard

There are many things I enjoy about living on the south shore of Massachusetts.

When we first moved here I kept hitting my husband with the back of my hand, saying, “Look! I bet that fish I just ordered came right off that boat there. Do you think those are summer places? People come here for their vacation…like for a week. And we work five minutes from here!”

And when I lived in Vermont full time I marveled at the ‘real’ farm animals, breathtaking mountain scenery and just the…feel of it all.

Now that’s the stuff that should be bottled.

I’ve often tried to name or describe it, but it’s almost impossible—or maybe it’s just imperceptible. How exactly do you know, when you’re driving north on Route 7 from New York to Vermont, that you’ve actually crossed the border? If you close your eyes in the middle of Fenway Park’s Green Monster, what makes you know precisely where you are? I think it comes down to a ‘seventh sense’…a sense of place.

I’m sure that the Connecticut suburb I grew up in has some sort of sense of place—but, I was most likely too young to appreciate it. I just can’t recall the desire to puff out my chest when I placed a locally made article of clothing next to a small-town cash register so I could bring it home. In fact, I just don’t recall any locally made articles of clothing, short of the scratchy matching Fair Isle sweaters my mother made each of us. The people my family knew worked in large factories, hospitals, schools, etc.—it could have been anywhere. Now that Gus and I both work for town-owned light departments, it was only recently that I could feel a little swell of pride when I learned that my hometown also boasted a municipal power company.

Finally, something locally made!

But I don’t think you need to live in a place to experience the camaraderie that comes from it. Years ago, my stepson Richard and I were swept up in a parade for the Feast of San Gennaro in New York’s Little Italy on the way to meet the rest of my family for dinner. We cheered and clapped for the aging costumed horn procession, and I broke away to buy myself a huge chunk of torrone from a street vendor. Later, I sat in La Mela, my arms wide, proclaiming, “This is the best restaurant ever!”

I haven’t been back since, but just remembering that day brings up a tingle of delight.

In fact, ever since April 15, Boston kind of feels like everyone’s birthplace. In a way it is, being such an important seat in U.S. history. But in another way it’s just that we all have a home that we’re proud of. Maybe we come from identical houses on grid-patterned streets, or trailers with tarps keeping out the rain, or overcrowded apartments with paper-thin walls. I guess this great country of ours has its own sense of place. The little, different, special things that quilts each of our neighborhoods together, without a care that the wildly patterned silk of one square may clash with the faded flannel of the next.

Maybe thinking about how the Boston marathon tragedy brought us together will help us appreciate where we are right here, right now—and warm us from the inside.


Jo Bregnard, though she’s not a fan of labels, considers herself a vegan, Vinyasa enthusiast, and fan of the simple life.

Like elephant journal on Facebook.


Eds: T. Lemieux/Kate Bartolotta

Read 1 Comment and Reply

Read 1 comment and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Elephant journal  |  Contribution: 1,375,790