There’s something decidedly interesting about spending time with people in a landscape. I have a nearby barrow that I love dearly, and at times in the past I’ve taken people to it and spent time with them, there. It’s a telling activity. There were some disappointments with people who clearly had no sense of sacredness or significance even though I’d tried to tell them something of how I felt.
I learn a lot about people by seeing how they respond to the land. The people who see, and feel, who show signs of awe and wonder are always the best people to walk with. Not people who do performance responses, heavy on the drama and announcing how sensitive they are to special places… that becomes exhausting all too quickly. Quiet wonder and thoughtful reverence are the things I like most in other people.
For many people, the landscape is just another commodity to consume. They want the dramatic, the picturesque, the pleasing and unless that’s in front of them they tend towards complacency. For some people, the landscape is just a background for selfies, for performance, or a place to go and have a conversation. I see people out and about who show every sign of walking out of guilt, or some feeling of obligation to family and waistline. They tend to show up on Sunday afternoons. These are ways of being outdoors that miss so much of what’s good.
Of course wherever we go we can only be ourselves. I think it’s good to ask what we bring with us, though. How much noise, opinion, self importance or need for attention do we bring with us when we head into a landscape? Are we using a place for recreation, or are we trying to connect with it?