Emotional landscapes

I’m back from my weekend trip to Ottawa. Had a pretty good time – walked around Parliament Hill, through the Byward Market, went to the nature museum, finally saw Passchendaele. Ate way too many jelly beans. And I discovered that Canadians take Good Friday way, way, way seriously; NOTHING was open on Friday. I mean, Wal-Mart was closed. Wal-Mart! Yes, that Wal-Mart!

On the drive north, T and I talked about emotional landscapes; how the mental maps that we make of a place do not necessarily correspond to the dry, two dimensional images that we find on Google Earth; memories and perceptions colour the map and warp distances and sizes. This evolved into a discussion of the slippery slope of assigning our own perceptions to places as if they reflected inherent values. We were driving through an area of northern New York with very little in the way of industry or economic opportunity of any sort. The first few times I drove through it (many years ago), I thought about how depressed the area was and how depressing it must be to live there. Eventually, though, I began asking myself how I knew that. I was jumping to an unwarranted conclusion; I simply don’t know the experience of the people who live there. I’ve never met them. I’ve never asked.

One of my yoga teachers talks about the Sanskrit concept of shri; life-affirming. A daisy sprouting through a crack in the pavement. Butterflies on a battlefield. We tend to find happiness, beauty, joy in the least likely places.

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2 Responses

  1. For instance in a long car ride that may seem like hell to some, but with the right person, is joy.

  2. Exactly. 🙂 But the drive to Ottawa is still way too long!

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