Home Again with a More Informed Imagination

February 7, 2013

“No place can be real emotionally unless we’ve imagined the life there, and our imagining is not likely to be very substantive if not informed.”
— William Kittredge, Southwest Homelands

The Statue of Liberty

The Statue of Liberty

New York City architecture

New York City architecture

Flag refection in revolving doors, Times Square

Flag reflection in revolving doors, Times Square

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”
— Mark Twain

“Travel is not altogether an indulgence.  Going out, seeking psychic and physical adventures, can reawaken love of the shifting presence of the sacred Zen ‘ten thousand things’ we find in the wiggling world.  Travel, then, is a technique for staying in touch, a wake-up call, not a diversion, but a responsibility.”
— William Kittredge, Southwest Homelands

I’m back home again after my first trip to New York City.  Now, when I read a novel set in NYC, or see a movie that takes place there, or hear news of the big city, I will have a better sense of the geography of the place and my responses will be more grounded.  I know now how walkable the city is, and that despite its size and population, NYC is manageable because it feels like a collection of small villages.

I do feel that tourist travel is an indulgence, but for me, it is a necessary one.  Any travel is mind-broadening.  And it’s good for the spirit to feast on new sights and experiences.  The challenge is to hold on to that sense of wonder and adventure as I transition back to the familiar geography of my home and workplace.

I can see that traveling on vacation is, on some levels, an escape from my “real” life.  I do partly agree with this comment:  “Looking, consuming with the eye and producing nothing, can never be a genuine life.”  (Lynne Sharon Schwartz, Not Now Voyager)  Schwartz goes on to reflect on the risk of traveling as an escape from the struggles of making a meaningful life at home:  “Nonetheless, when we’re gripped by uncertainty, travel feels like a ready solution to the problem of What next?  What to do, what to think, what to be? . . . On a trip, there’s always another monument, another excursion, another natural wonder to visit, to prove to ourselves that we’re doing something.”

My time in New York City felt like that — always another sight to see.  I couldn’t have sustained that level of sightseeing for too many more days.  After four days in the city, I felt full, and glad to return home to digest and make sense of all that filled my mind.  New York offers such richness, and I can see that it is easy to overdose.

And now it is time to learn once again how to be at home:

” . . . the world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles, no matter how long, but only by a spiritual journey, a journey of one inch, very arduous and humbling and joyful, by which we arrive a the ground at our feet and learn to be at home.”
— Wendell Berry

11 Responses to “Home Again with a More Informed Imagination”

  1. carol green Says:

    Travel almost always leads to a broader view of the world. Enjoyed your trip.

  2. Adrienne Says:

    thank you so for sharing your thoughts and sights.

  3. Chris Says:

    Lovely, thoughtful, post today on travel and I feel much the same way….so much to see, absorb, wonder at, etc. etc. in the world…and not enough time! I too felt the same sensory overload visiting NYC….3 days was plenty for me too and we only hit the tip of the iceberg but I think some of it may be that we are Northwesterners and so ingrained in the natural beauty that surrounds us here that a trip to a big city is like….Wowza and we can only take in a little at a time!!
    Now that was one long, run on sentence! 🙂 Thanks for taking us along to NYC…wonderful photos!!

  4. Sydney Says:

    Fabulous shot of the Statue of Liberty!

  5. shoreacres Says:

    I’ve stopped drawing distinctions between “real life” and – what? “unreal life”? It seems more fruitful to me simply to say, “Now I am here, doing this and that – but next week I will travel to there, and do other things”.

    One of my readers is a great Wendell Berry fan, and he quoted from one of Berry’s letters on my last post. Berry said, ““The old and honorable idea of “vocation” is simply that we each are called, by God, or by our gifts, or by our preference, to a kind of good work for which we are particularly fitted. Implicit in this idea is the evidently startling possibility that we might work willingly, and that there is no necessary contradiction between work and happiness or satisfaction.”

    And sometimes, there’s no necessary contradiction between work and vacation!

    It was a wonderful trip – for you, of course, but also for us!

    • Rosemary Says:

      I must say that your blog has the most interesting and articulate readers. That Berry quote is a keeper, and I’ve copied it into my commonplace book.
      Thank you for calling me out on the term “real life,” because you are 100 percent right. All life is real. I couldn’t be in vacation mode all the time — sometimes my vacations seem too much a superficial sampling. But I can’t be in work mode all the time either. I do think that I need to rethink how I want to spend my limited vacation days in the years ahead. There is something appealing about staying longer in one place, and building down time (unplanned and inactive) during that stay. I have to think about this.

  6. garden.poet Says:

    I’ve really enjoyed this look at NYC through a traveler’s eyes. Thank you so much for all the places you’ve shown me! I am resolved to get to know New York a bit better.

  7. Margaret Says:

    I find myself taking note of reflections in buildings a bit more since viewing your photos. I love the flag reflections you discovered!


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