The Practice Of Settlement, Finding A Sense Of Place with John Lane

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As a sharp observer of the natural world, John Lane spent the first half of his life roaming and writing about life on the move. In mid-life he met Betsy, married and put down roots in Spartanburg, South Carolina, surprisingly, the same place where he began his. Once he was settled he decided to learn everything he could about the place in which he now resides. He took a saucer and a pen and drew a circle on a map that represented a one-mile radius from his home, and proceeded to explore every facet of the place including the topography, history, ancient and current citizenry, and industry. This exploration sharpened his sense of place and serves as a model for how we might look at our own homes, terrain, and communities. When writing an essay for National Geographic's book, Heart of a Nation, edited by Barry Lopez, Lane states this process was, "the beginning of the settling process. It was a coming to terms with things in your past and things in your place that you've ignored as important . . . I began to think, 'What is it like to bore into this place that I am from?'" He shares with us the virtues and obstacles of becoming native to one place. (hosted by Michael Toms)


John Lane is an associate professor of English at Wofford College. His writing has been published in Orion, American Whitewater, Southern Review, Terra Nova, and Fourth Genre. He's the editor of the digital newsletter "Kudzu Telegraph."

His books include:

To learn more about the work of John Lane go to or

Topics Explored in This Dialogue

  • Why understanding the history and topography of our home place is important
  • How to explore your own home place
  • Why it is important to learn the dreams and deeds of the ancestors of a home place
  • How books are the keepers of lost history and are persistent against the ravages of development
  • How history is a tool for the imagination
  • How Hub City Writers Project became a model for play space, and a literary activity
  • How a community turned tragedy into a blessing
  • What it took to build a sustainable house

Host: Michael Toms      Interview Date: 4/2/2008         Program Number: 3254  

Music Playlist

From Album: Feather on the Wind
Artist: Cedar Wind
1997 Laughing Cat LC-1500

Opening Essay: Track 02 Waiting For You
Music Break 1: Track 01 Helushka
Music Break 2: Track 04 Father Sky
Music Break 3: Track 06 Morning Star