It take years, decades, even, for me to begin to know a place, and usually that’s just when I’m packing to leave. It’s easy to confuse the blindness that can come with familiarity with boredom; it’s easy to confuse the geographical solution—moving somewhere new, to escape old problems—as the true solution it never is. My eye, grown blind to one set of trees and shadows, soon grows blind to the next set.
This year, I’m not in a position to move; many of us perennial wanderers are finding ourselves stuck in one place due to accumulating responsibilities and declining incomes. And so the search for renewed sight becomes more and more important; for there is a little of the wanderer, of the easily bored, in all of us.
I remember my father exclaiming as we drove home along River Road after a long trip abroad, “This is the most beautiful place in the world” and the Thames at twilight or the prancing lights on the Eiffel Tower seemed much diminished. And it was only the Ohio River, not yet defaced by barge terminals, floating gas stations and warehouses, that called up his response. He’d looked at that river all his life.
Here on the old East Side of Santa Fe, where us newcomers have long since pushed out the people who built the adobe houses, it’s the last rose against a warm orange wall, the last drip of the frog fountain about to be shut off for the winter, the last bee-ravaged yellow pear lying under the old pear tree.
And each window, each weathered viga, each pot still carelessly blooming with July’s flowers that will be crisped and browned by the hard frost coming tonight, catches my eye and holds it. Perhaps one day I will come to believe in the power of vision to carry me away rather than the power of my feet.