August 25, 2010

neither here nor there


Mokoliʻi—a basalt island, not a home (except to wedge-tailed shearwaters). But what an island she is!

Q: Is there a place that's not the place you live, on which you fling a lot of feeling, that seems inexplicably meaningful to you in ways psychological and emotional?

1. Mokoliʻi/Chinaman's Hat, Oahu (if I were a wedge-tailed shearwater, that is!)
2. A San Juan Island.
3. Somewhere in French Polynesia (probably).
4. In the hills above Malibu.
5. Big Sur (when I get there).
6. The idea of Vermont.

For a while I've jokingly referred to the Northwest corner of the Pacific NW as my "Dream Landscape," but I'm actually quite serious. "Dream" as in sort of half-remembered from some other life/long-ago summer, and "dream" as in ideal: evergreen forests, islands, and lakes that feel like home to me.

I'm OK with the romanticism of the D.L. concept—that everyone has one or some place(s)/terrain(s)/climate(s) they're drawn to (dare I say spiritually?) more than others—and I even still like the ostentatious way Annie Dillard describes my D.L. in her 1977 book, Holy the Firm, when she was living on a remote island in the Puget Sound: "...the bluing of water with distance at the world's rim, and on it the far blue islands, and over these lights the light clouds."

A few years ago, I found another kind of Dream Landscape (or at least Dreaminess) in, of all places, Los Angeles—the Southwest corner of the SW. But instead of evoking old vibes, it felt entirely new to me: a place laid out differently than Chicago and bathed in another kind of light. Joan Didion warns: "California is a place in which a boom mentality and a sense of Chekhovian loss meet in uneasy suspension; in which the mind is troubled by some buried but ineradicable suspicion that things better work here, because here, beneath the immense bleached sky, is where we run out of continent." But the LA I like is based only on visits and curated by other people: Red Rock caves and Malibu beaches and juice bars tucked unassumingly into retail strips. I've gone back a few times each year, and each visit yields new things to like and find. Instead of thinking "things better work" out West, I tend to think "some things here just work better." At least (for me) the landscapes do, and the light. Maybe I'm just drawn to edges?

Q: Is it better to only visit Dream Landscapes, because you get to fling all that feeling onto them and then leave (before any dullness or disappointment sets in or the largeness of the place diminishes in your mind)? Or are there Dreamscapes that stay dreamy with residence—places you always felt you'd feel at home in, then do?

I think of stuff like this all the time, but anticipate no immediate As to my Qs, and so stay put.

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