Are you hefted?

I ran across the word “hefted” this week. Maybe you know it. “Hefted” refers to sheep that don’t need a fence because they don’t wander far from home.

Since I decided it was a term I could use, as in, “I have invitations from friends to visit wonderful places but I stay at home like a hefted sheep,” I looked it up. I didn’t use the dictionary, I Googled it. I found an article about one of my favorite subjects: our connection to our landscape, our sense of place, and how it molds us.

The author, writing in the London Times, believes that people who move from place to place develop “a sense of anomie that comes in a society constantly and unhappily on the march from one place to another. This is what social dislocation really means: dis-location, to be taken from the place you know to somewhere you do not, but carrying always the internal desire to return to the place you were once hefted.”

He goes on, “I am certain that people grow into a landscape, and landscapes grow into the bone, leaving a permanent imprint that survives down the generations. If sheep carry a memory of place, so must every human, no matter how far we travel from our hefts. Place marks us all, and leaves its traces.”

I wonder about those of us who have gathered together around the Rural Woman Zone. Do we each have a sense of connection with the rural places where we live? What kinds of traces and memories have place left in us?  What are we connected to? The people? The landscape? The culture?

What if we are connected to a place – the landscape, the remoteness, the river, the trees, the sky, a place where it’s quiet and we can raise our own food, or get on a horse and ride across the countryside – but we aren’t a part of the local culture because it is too conservative, or racist, or patriarchal?

What do we do if we have a disconnect between our ties to the landscape and the culture? How different from the local culture and political landscape are you? Do you live in your rural area because it is your culture and you find your community there? Or have you self-marginalized in a remote place because you have chosen to live apart from the world, or to live in a landscape that you love in spite of a disconnect with the local culture?

Next time: Questions about disconnections: Are you a gun control advocate living in a “Second Amendment” culture? Are you a dove among hawks? Are you a minority or anti-racist advocate in a racist community? Are you the lone blue spot in a sea of red?

This is a topic of discussion on Rural Woman Zone on Facebook. 

Complete article, Are you hefted? by Ben MacIntyre