Part of what I wanted to get across in my books was the value of observation. It can turn a very ordinary experience into something mysterious, thought-provoking, and challenging. When we’ re out and about, I try to keep my eye out for images that will spark a discussion. One of the things we sometimes see here in Western North Carolina are what I call “lonely chimneys”: chimneys missing their houses.
I always point them out and we speculate on what the house might have looked like and what could have happened to it. I may have gotten this habit from being in Ireland, seeing all the crumbling, abandoned houses and imagining their former inhabitants leaving everything behind and heading to the US, Australia, New Zealand. Talking about it always leads to a little bit of history and a little imagination. We’re starting a collection of images of them. I’m not sure what it will lead to, but it seems like a good way to get the kids to think about human settlements and the landscape and the meaning of “a sense of place.”