Editorial: Healthy Place

Where we live matters. That’s certainly the case when it comes to health, as reported elsewhere in the newspaper this week. But more than health, there’s soliphilia.

Soliphilia? No, it’s not a typo, misprint or some other kind of spelling mistake. It’s a neologism, formed from Latin roots, meaning “the love of and responsibility for a place.” A more poetic way of describing it is “heart’s ease,” according to a recent article in The New York Times Magazine entitled “Is There an Ecological Unconscious?”

Soliphilia is the opposite of the recently diagnosed psychological condition known as “solastalgia,” a neurosis that afflicts most of the modern world and means “the pain experienced when there is recognition that the place where one resides and that one loves is under immediate assault . . . a form of homesickness one gets when one is still at ‘home.’”

There’re no verifiable, available statistics to prove that Rappahannock residents are more emotionally healthy and mentally stable than any other people. But I would not be surprised. Here we know “heart’s ease.”

How has Rappahannock been spared environmental (and thus psychological) degradation? Here’s one answer:

A good community newspaper both reflects and shapes local opinion and citizen action. Had the newspaper you hold in your hands been under different ownership the last 40 years, Rappahannock might well have become a far different, degraded place. “While I am not with my family so fortunate as to make my home here, I feel passionately for the hills, fields, streams, and way of life of Rappahannock County,” said our predecessor, Arthur W. “Nick” Arundel on taking on, in 1977, what he considered the responsibility and sacred trust of publishing the paper. We are humbled and honored to follow in his footsteps.

Arundel had bought the paper from the publishers of a Fauquier-based weekly newspaper called The Piedmont Virginian, which had been created in the mid-1970s as an alternative voice to the aggressively pro-growth editorial policies of the Fauquier Democrat at the time. But then Arundel, who shared the sensibilities of The Piedmont Virginian newspaper, acquired the Democrat, and everything changed. The Piedmont Virginian’s mission would now be realized through the voice of its erstwhile competitor. It only made sense to the owners, including Sen. John Warner, to close up shop and turn the Rappahannock News over to friend and colleague Nick Arundel.

Coincidentally, I am also the publisher of a resurrected Piedmont Virginian — this time in a quarterly magazine format instead of a weekly newspaper — but with the same editorial mission to celebrate and preserve our uniquely beautiful and historic countryside.

Full circle: That’s the way it should be in a world whose natural rhythms haven’t been degraded. And so it is that the Rappahannock News will continue to promote soliphilia. May your heart be at ease.

Walter Nicklin