(Mrs. Whatsit is traveling and will be back next week. In the meantime. . . .)
Here’s an interesting discussion concerning the impact that place can have on writing (and, by extension, on the writer). Just a taste:
Those of you who’ve found your way into one of my retreats or workshops will have heard me say it: the deepest lessons of my life have been learned from places. Not from the people in them (though that’s not to say I haven’t learned from people too!): I’m talking about the nature of the places themselves, and the way they’ve reflected me back at myself during critical periods of my life. Like any profound friendship, that’s what my places have done. They’ve led me to the lessons I’ve badly needed to learn; they’ve broken me open; they’ve held me when everything else has crumbled by the wayside and I haven’t been able to see a way to go on. They’ve called to me gently when there’s something they think I should learn.
I’m giving it a close read because, just the other day, I was thinking about how much this move has changed me. You don’t really think that it will change you; you’ll still be you, just in a fresh house, a different neighborhood, a new place. But, of course, it does. The woman who keeps her tools in the garage is different from the woman who had to go out to the shed to get a drill. Coming home past an apple orchard is different from coming home past a metro station. Waking up with the sun in your eyes is different from waking up facing West.
I’ve long half-joked that, if I ran the zoo, every high school student would have to learn an easily transferable trade: elder care assistant, cook, car repair. Then, after high school, they’d have to pick three places (not their home) to live for a year. So, a year in New York City, a year in a tiny town in the Rockies, a year in St. Louis. Or a year on an urban farm, a year in Chicago, a year on a commune on the Pacific. Only then could you go to college, if you wanted to go. You could pick a fourth place, or go to college at home, or head back to one of the places you’d chosen.
After that, I think people could make better choices about where it would be good for them to settle down.
Where would you live if you could pick anywhere? How would it change you?