I Can’t Commit

SeattleSkylineAt the first annual Iceland Writers Retreat, I got to take two workshops from Pulitzer prize-winning writer Geraldine Brooks. For each workshop, she asked us to bring a short piece of writing to introduce ourselves. Because “travel” was the loose theme of the retreat, one of the options was to write 300 words about your favorite place. Here is mine.

Intimacy with the rhythms and contours of a single place only evolves from years of dedicated observance. Seattle, with its salmon-filled waters ringed by Middle Earth-mountains cloaked in towering Doug fir, is certainly worthy of such devotion. Studies have shown that humans evolved to feel most at home in exactly the kind of edge habitat Seattle provides.

But studies have also shown that to the human eye anything that doesn’t change becomes invisible, so it’s impossible to appreciate one’s surroundings without occasionally looking somewhere else. Coming home is so much more satisfying than being home. When it comes to favorite places, I can’t commit.

I have a bit of a thing for island nations. For years I was obsessed with Japan. I loved Japan’s forests of skyscrapers with their underbrush of traditional architecture. I still do. But a disastrous visit involving sick babies and the yakuza finally convinced me we weren’t right for each other.
There was a brief flirtation the beautiful and exotic Sri Lanka. I could deal with the civil war; but ultimately, the teardrop of Asia was too inaccessible, and anyway, I’m more of a temperate climate girl.

Things are pretty intense between me and Iceland right now. Iceland isn’t traditionally pretty; the mountains are small and the ungenerous could call the landscape stark. But an Ansel Adams color palette washes everything in mystery and if the phrase “living rock” ever meant anything, it does so here. When I’m away from Iceland, all I can do is think about how to get back. Reykjavík feels like my favorite place, but I don’t know what will happen when the new wears off.
I hear New Zealand is pretty cool.


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