Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Power of Place

Today's shirt isn't exactly exciting or eye-catching but the memories of my visits to Oxford always thrill me a little. The thought of walking the same lanes and seeing the same vistas as Tolkein, Shelley, Wilde, and Adam Smith boggles... and I mean BOGGLES... my mind.

Geography is so much more than co-ordinates on a globe. In the movie Collateral, Jamie Foxx's character has a photograph of the Maldives tucked into the sun visor in the taxi he drives. When things get rough, he takes a little holiday by looking at that picture and thinking about that beach. That power of place depends on the depth of feeling associated with the memory or the dream. We never recapture a specific moment but we do try, don't we? And being in a place that has deep meaning for us can invoke the memory of that moment so that we can choose to relive it, reflect on it, even re-evaluate it through our more experienced lens. Returning year after to year to the same restaurant to celebrate an anniversary. Spending Christmas morning with family in the same living room every year. Stopping at the same viewing point every time a road trip passes by it. It's where nostalgia and deja vu have a love child and produce the essence of a place. Those little snapshot moments in our minds' eye give us solace and respite, maybe even resolve and motivation.

And then there are places where we've never physically been to that still resonate with us. For me, that was most keenly felt in Florence, Italy. The first day I woke up in that city and stepped out of our crazy amazing fabulously-priced hotel and onto the via that runs along the banks of the Arno, I felt as though I had returned to a well-known and long-loved place. I traced this feeling back (past my multiple screenings of A Room With a View) to my undergrad degree spent buried in multiple courses on medieval history. Dante, Boccaccio, the Medici family... I studied their writings, their art, their politics. I lived, breathed, and dreamed their legacies for four years. It shouldn't have surprised me that their stomping grounds would seem familiar. But it did. And that's the power of place. 

Anyone have an example to share?

**Now that I'm thinking about Florence, I gotta share images from the hotel.

Those paintings are the DOORS to the rooms
That's the front lobby and the check-in counter

And THAT's a typical room. Not even kidding. The ceiling had LED "stars" and you could signal "Do Not Disturb" by pushing a button on the bedside console.