I’m happy to be back in my vista.
People from the East and South complain of the open spaces here, how they feel exposed and swallowed up by the expanse of it. I recall someone telling a story about being tailed for miles on the highway on the eastern plains of Colorado or Wyoming — I forget which — slowing so the person could pass, though the other car never would. The driver simply clung to the back bumper. Finally the storyteller pulled over and the other car did, too. An East Coast woman tumbled out, apologizing, saying how she felt so overwhelmed by the empty sky and deserted highway that she just wanted to be near another car.
My New Hampshire boss complains that she has a difficult time judging distance here. She can’t tell how fast a car is approaching or how close it is, because she feels she has nothing to reference it to.
I understand what they mean because I feel suffocated in places like Virginia. The Appalachians are pretty, yes, but they hem you in. The trees, even shed of leaves seem to block the sky. Granted, it was foggy and rainy during our visit, compounding the feeling. Even the houses, though, seem to be built to wrap around you and divide you from the outside.
Not like our house, designed to pull the vista in and fill the rooms with it.
I drove from Abingdon to the DC area, to visit Allison. Oh, said the innkeeper in Abingdon, you’ll drive through the Shenandoah valley. It’s so beautiful. At one point it just opens up and you can see the valley and the mountains.
Even with all this fog and rain? I asked.
Oh, he said.
It cleared enough going north that I did see some of the valley and the distant rolling hills, which I just can’t quite bring myself to call mountains. Theirs is a vista of softness and blur. Eternally smoky.
Something in me relaxed to return to the crisp Western light, our slice-edged mountains. Even in a sleepy photo like this one, the outline of the peaks is crisp and defined.
I suppose it’s all what you’re used to. I grew up in the West and some restless part of me only settles down when I’m here. Georgia O’Keeffe came here for the light though, among countless others.
Great is the gift of being able to see.