Friday, February 20, 2009

Genius loci

It's 27 degrees and very windy. The sun has given up and the afternoon winds down.
BEING SOMEWHERE ELSE is looking real good. At this time of year, at these latitudes, people think of planting their gardens in a few months or making a daring escape to some gentle and warm place that just makes you go, aahhhhh...
Ancient peoples believed in the spirit of a place. Receptive to muses silent to most of us, writer Lawrence Durrell felt it strongly in places he lived in and loved, like Cyprus and Corfu.
Some of us strain at our bonds and yearn to breathe such rare air. Others feel rich and comforted in their homes, and live easily with their local spirits. They understand each other and are not beggared by desire.
My grandparents went on only one vacation, from Pennsylvania to Florida in the 50's. They didn't like it and never repeated the attempt. I've never seen anyone happier in his home, where he belonged, than my grandfather. Happiness is where you find it, but I would rather be a bird than a pond fish.
The strangest place I ever saw was Rockland County, New York, just north of New Jersey. It is almost completely inhabited by Orthodox and Hasidic Jews. Not so strange, you think, as Amish communities are a similar thing. The cognitive dissonance of seeing those people living parts of a 16th or 17th century life in a modern setting was unsettling; the Amish keep modernity at bay as much as they can. It was unconvincing, like a Renaissance Fair by an interstate highway.
The most beautiful small place (leaving out the supermodels like Italy and California) I've seen is the rose and Japanese gardens which are side-by-side in Portland, Oregon. Put it on your bucket list.

No comments:

Post a Comment