It might have been the abrupt change of scenery or the exhilaration of being behind the wheel of a car again, but as I drove out of the city and down through the cornfields and rolling hills of New Jersey and Maryland last week, I slowly became aware of a distinct change in my perception of, well, everything. Living in a city is so insular; the things I notice most often have to do with other people. Interactions with others are thrust upon me regardless of whether I want them or not. Whether it’s being smashed up against six other passengers on a crowded morning L train or vaguely being made aware of another’s existence as voices float in through an apartment window, you’re never really alone in a city.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing—methods of introspection and observation are subsequently adapted to suit city-living, it’s simply that I had forgotten how different it feels not only physically, but intelligently and emotionally to explore wider spaces. I began to notice scenery in a new way, different still from when such views were the norm and before I had lived quite as long in New York. Descriptors came to me and I recalled lines—some clichéd, others less so—from literature and film that made more sense from a more pastoral point of view. I began to notice myself more, too. Driving with the windows down on a long country highway with hardly another car in sight allows a lot of time for introspection.
I wonder, now that I’m back and can compare the two sensibilities with greater acuity, how this effect can apply in a literary sense. Just as one perceives books differently when read at earlier and later stages in life, surely the greater environmental impacts on a person can change this as well. And writing! Not only were my thought patterns altered, but I noticed modes of speech that I hadn’t employed since I’ve moved away from the shore came back in little spurts—phrases as well as dialect reverted back.
Of course, this escape was brief and could hardly change me permanently, but the ephemeral shifts are still interesting to note. I can’t help but wonder if my ideas for writing or taste in reading material would morph (again, I am sure only slightly, as I would of course retain my core sense of self). I can only see this as an invigorating and positive switch—like when you change shampoos and your hair is lustrous and beautiful for that first time with the new brand. And yes, I am now comparing writing to washing your hair. It’s Friday.
As it’s the season for vacations and scenery changes, does anyone have a personal anecdote or opinion on this matter?