We read a great deal about the effects of place in fiction. Usually the discussion concerns the setting or settings for the story. Having just driven from the foothills of the Blue Ridge to the foothills of the Berkshires, the notion has entered my head that where the writer is may have almost as much to do with whatever comes from the keyboard or pen as the place in which the story comes to fruition. It was a pleasant journey through the Shenandoah Valley to this small valley at the foot of the wildest mountain in Connecticut.
Home for me these days includes a view of Table Rock, Grandfather Mountain, Grandmother, Hawk's Bill, and even Mount Mitchell. It's an hour's drive to Linville. The space is as great as the escarpment of ancient mountains and coves we look at with awe and pleasure every day.
For 45 years I lived in these Litchfield Hills that seem almost to hold us in the curve of a sheltering hand. The one thing I've learned is that the sensibility that touches me is closely related to whichever end of the Appalachian chain where I find myself. Familiar without making me blase or unobservant now that I'm learning both. I've come to understand the Western North Carolinians' fascination with the beach.
We had friends with a piece of property on Little Cumberland Island off the coast of Georgia. When we were lucky enough to visit there, restful and utterly quiet except for nature's sounds of sea and wind and birds, I couldn't stop taking notes. Maybe the contrast, the usual reactions to the unfamiliar, or maybe something more subtle and more powerful would take hold.
Our friends never spent more than a month at a time there. The only access is via St. Andrew's Sound by boat from Jekyll Island. Once one is of a certain age, the isolation becomes a consideration in spite of electricity and phone service. The hurricane season must be something calling for guts and endurance, winter may be that of the subtropics but not as gentle as spring and fall, summer must be almost unendurable without air conditioning. But the views, the vegetation, the incredible numbers of birds we saw only on the barrier islands, the beach and marsh were like constant entertainment and stimulation.
Maybe this is why so many writers take to cafes to write. I think the need for the unfamiliar is something I can grasp in theory, but I'm coming to the conclusion that I'm attached to home at this time in my life. Granted that it may not take too long to find a new attachment, but I simply can't imagine not being so distracted by people and sounds in a public place that I'd never be able to consign anything to paper. Or maybe that's another sign of encroaching age.