I’d like to share with you a theory that I formulated some years back. I kept wondering why Aspen, (despite some of the things that I’ve mentioned in previous posts), is a place where I love spending time. Well, I’ve shown you (here and here) some photos of things I’ve seen on excellent hikes in the area, and that would be enough evidence for most people. The fact that the physics atmosphere at the Aspen Center for Physics is fantastic, and that I get a lot of good work done there every year, (facts I’ve mentioned before) and that the administrative staff there are so welcoming, friendly and helpful, all adds to one’s feeling of warmth to the place.
However, I recall feeling rapidly comfortable in Aspen, immediately I first arrived several years ago. After a bit of thought, it struck me back then that it was because of this view, which dominates the town, roughly from the North:
So what? You ask, and rightly so. Well, it turns out that I spent ten of my formative years (ages 4 to 14) as a child on the Caribbean island of Montserrat, and the main town there, Plymouth (where I went to school, church, play, and pretty much everything else) has its North view inland dominated by St. George’s Hill and that view looks like this:
Sorry, I surfed the web just now looking for a photo, and this is the best I could find. The likeness is actually better than this (the shot is rather oblique). But here you can see the similar shape and scale, and note that these are both North-looking views.
Not so dissimilar, eh? My theory is that this is part of the reason I feel at home in Aspen. I find this sort of thing fascinating. I imagine there are all kinds of research on this sort of “shape” memory, and how it informs our sense of place, but I wonder how much and how often this sort of thing might influence our daily feelings and actions? Maybe your favourite part of town is your favourite not because of that bookshop or coffee shop that you frequent, but because of the way that bridge swings over the river in just the way that it did in your home town, and you crossed it every day on your way to school…..
Just a thought.
I should mention that ten years ago, due to the appearance of a live volcano:
the entire town of Plymouth -a huge chunk of my entire childhood- was buried under tens of feet of ash:
The good news is that they’ve rebuilt island life in the North of the island, and it is still one of the most beautiful places to visit in the Caribbean. (I borrowed photos from this page, which has lots of interesting Montserrat photos, by the way.)
Speaking of “Home” – I’m Home! I was scheduled to stay in Aspen until Sunday, and had planned to do another big hike and just “hang out”, it being the last couple of days before semester starts at USC. You may even have been expected me to be on the “Society” beat, and report on the (highly unusual) funeral of Hunter S. Thompson, which took place in the Aspen region this weekend, but I have to disappoint you there.
The truth be told, as much as I love Aspen, I just felt that I had to get home. Rather than spend the weekend in Aspen, I thought I’d change my flight and get home. I’ve been on the road for too long. Do you know that feeling? You’ve been travelling a lot and as great as those places are (never mind the fact that it’s business travel too!), you just want to sit at home?
Maybe I’m getting old…..
So I’m on the sofa again, and I’m stuck here, just like last week. Why? Same reasons as last week. I did an even more strenuous (but still exhilarating) hike than last week, here in the vicinity of home, and the reasons and the journey were so interesting that I’ll save it for my next post. There’ll be physics involved, with a relation to our ongoing and wonderful conversation about The Greatest Physics Paper!