Ghost ecology, living map

“Have you ever stood somewhere, looked around, and wondered what the place must have looked like hundreds of years ago? In particular, what the nature of the place might have looked like, sounded like, smelled like? Wonder what has been lost between then and now?”

During a recent Ashram Lunch & Learn, Lesley Neilson asked these questions during her inspiring and thought-provoking talk called “Ghost ecology, living map”.

“I created this map as part of a research project for my Masters of Education at the University of Victoria. My research focuses on ways to foster deeper connections to nature and land, and to encourage an ecological literacy that is rooted in place. My map (both the process of mapping and the designed, annotated map itself) was developed as a way to animate the ecological history of the land on which I live — Lekwungen Territory / Greater Victoria, on southern Vancouver Island.”

Lesley first came to the Ashram as a young undergraduate student in the 1990’s. “I have been carrying the teachings with me for essentially all of my adult life. The practice of reflection weaves its way into everything I do, and this research project is a good example of how observation, questioning, and symbolic inquiry serves as a foundation for how I move through the world. Even in the often rigid world of academia I found a way and a place to honour the subjective, the creative and the self. (My supervisor’s encouragement of my non-traditional research approach was invaluable — thank you Dr. Darlene Clover!).”

“For my project I wanted to tell a personal, ecological story of place. I did this through ‘deep mapping’. Deep maps create spatial narratives rooted in meaning, experience, and place-making.”

At the end of her Lunch & Learn, Lesley invited us to connect with the land where we live, asking ourselves: “Where have I put down roots? How does this ground me in a particular place?” To learn more about Lesley’s project and her approach to finding her ‘personal, ecological story of place” visit


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