Last week I went to Chicago with my husband and son and we went up in one of the super-tall skyscrapers twice to see the views and have tasty adult beverages (that last would be me.) I was struck by the horizon. It's an unbroken line in every direction. I'd seen Chicago on a map but never really thought that it's essentially a city on the plains. How does this impact your view of the world?
We loved the city - the architecture was stunning, the people warm, the winds cold and the food delicious - but I was unsettled by the horizon.
We talked about it awhile because our son is planning to spend the next four years at a small college in Wisconsin far from the ocean and mountains that establish our internal compasses every day of our lives. He/we thought it may seem disorienting.
When he goes for a walk how will he know which way is north?
From where I sit at this moment, in my corner office on the second floor of my house I can see the Pacific to the west and the endless peaks of the Canadian Cascade range to the north. I see the San Juan Islands and behind them, the Olympics. On the other side of my house I see the foothills of the North Cascades. Mountains after mountains after mountains.
Last summer there were big forest fires in British Columbia and it changed the light in northwest Washington. It was the talk of the town: "Did you see the sun turn orange?" Then Timothy Egan wrote an essay in the NY Times that is pinned to my studio wall called "In Fire Country" His ending still moves me:
You think you are out of fire country, in control, in a metro area of 3 million people. You live in the arms of the land, an intimacy that comes with the immodest illusion that there is such a thing as a safe distance.When the horizon is flat, are you in the arms of the land? If not, how does that affect how you understand the earth?