How Place Shapes Us

Words and Photos by Rebecca T. Dickinson

Most people want to belong somewhere, and others never find a place to call their home. The never ending train, plane and car saga is their place. Just as characters are shaped by people who influence writers, for better or worse, land or cityscapes shape us.


I cannot thank blogger and writer, Aly Hughes, enough for her kind words about my earlier post, When Location Should Matter, in her own, Violet of the Palouse. She wrote beautiful prose and description. I decided to write a follow-up to When Location Should Matter.

If we let a sunset—like Kathryn Dawson’s work in Day Forty-Three: Sunsets & Trees—touch us, we discover the inspiration to create a character that is shaped by the land.


Every character in my book, Sons of the Edisto, and the collection of stories, Red Loam (connected to the book), owes a part of his or her character to the city or landscape. Bootlegger, farmer or wealthy son of a bookkeeper all owe something to their surroundings.

I’ve been hesitant to share anything from my book, its stories and prescript. However, the prelude poem below from the beginning of Red Loam shows exactly what I mean better than my own words.

From Red Loam

There was nothing but sand and clay there when I was born.

When time is done, there’ll be nothing but sand and clay.

Those of us born here come from that same place.

Folk say God scooped Him up some mud out of nowhere and made Adam.

That may be, but it ain’t how Bamberg folk were made.

The rich, poor, Indian, black and white were all formed from the same red loam,

and mixed and molded with the Edisto and Salkehatchie waters.

There weren’t no breath of God blown into us.

It was fire—

enough to burn down all the trees and scorch our swamps.

Cotton, tobacco and wheat rose up from that same red loam.

In the end, we all go back to the soil we claim as our own.

It owns us; all of us,

but teachers, politikers and preachers ain’t going to tell you that.

The land we fight for, pay for, and farm is patient.

It knows we belong to it.

© R.T. Dickinson, 2006-2012. Sons of the Edisto and Red Loam. All Rights Reserved.

4 thoughts on “How Place Shapes Us

  1. Wow, that is an incredible poem! Absolutely beautiful. I can just hear it slowly spoken in a man’s deep baritone voice. The last two lines gave me chills. :)

    Thank you so much for the mention! I’m also glad you posted Kathryn’s blog as well. I hadn’t visited hers before, so I just went over there, and she has some great posts.

    1. Kathryn does have a great blog, and so do you! I always look forward to reading. There are a lot of deep thoughts there. I’m always looking for something a little more than how my day went. There is such quality in both blogs!

      Thank you so much for reading! I’m glad you enjoyed it. I wrote the poem/ prelude over a year ago as an intro to what will be my story collection. I may use it for Sons of the Edisto, but it seems to fit the story collection more. I look forward to sharing more of my own work, but I’m just figuring out how to do it a little at a time! :) Thanks again!

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