"Sense of place" is so important to me, veen, that I hardly know where to start.
Place and people are endlessly interacting with each other. We give meaning to a place and places influence us directly. Your hometown feels like home because you gave it that meaning. You interacted with it and it became a place. When we move to a new location, we have to create meaning in the new location. Suddenly we're adrift with no mooring in sight. Streets run into one another, cafes are all the same.
When I am lonely for a place, I am lonely for the person I was in that place. The person I was in that place is co-created by the interactions with others in that place.
For example, I miss the trails around the bay in the town I came from. I could get there in 5-10 minutes, walk for an hour with a friend, be with the trees, gulls, water, even swans, and be back at my desk in no time. Where I live now, there's water and trails, but they're not mine and it takes longer to get there and back, and friends are fewer and busier.
So how do we create places that matter? The problem with spatial identity is that for it to be truly unique, it needs to leave room for freedom, so that its inhabitants can make the space their own. Of course, if a place, a landscape, a streetscape is clean (enough), if I can breathe there (sorry Beijing), and walk or cycle, I can begin to make it my own (even as a visitor).
Your questions above on how we influence space and be influenced by it are too big for my Sunday morning. Here's my questions: What do you need in your immediate landscape to make it your own. If it's not there (trees, for example), where do you go to find it?
Of course, I have to try and get over my mourning for place, but the restlessness of being in the wrong place never goes away. thenewgreen and anyone else who has moved in the last few years, are you settling in?