There’s this particular curve in the highway on the way to my apartment. Texas is really flat, but from this curve you can see across the landscape and off into the distant horizon. This evening, as I was cresting the curve, I looked at that horizon – it was misty and hard to see because the sun was going down beyond it. It looked like a bad Instagram filter. Darned hipsters.
It was so beautiful to me, and that thought stopped me (not literally – I was on a highway going 70 – dangerous). Why was it so beautiful to me? I love beautiful views, and for all intents and purposes, it was not a particularly beautiful scene. A lot of houses in suburban squares, roads, some shopping complexes; just typical Texas. Thanks to my lightning fast deduction skills, I decided the reason it was so beautiful to me was because it was familiar, and that familiar things are beautiful because they are peaceful. Beautiful new things are also beautiful, but they are beautiful because they are new and shocking to the eyes, which try to take in every new thing and make sense of it and tend to leave the brain reeling a bit.
But the eyes love familiar things because they can rest on them, skip over the unimportant details and just sit there without freaking out. Bless my eyes. Texas will always be beautiful, in that regard, because it will be peaceful, even though, at the same time, it bores me to frustration.
Korea will be beautiful but shocking for a while. I will crave that familiarity. I think that’s why there’s so much power in bringing things from home to look at. Even the smallest bit of our old life gives the eyes a stopping point. A period at which to pause and breathe (eyes don’t breathe, silly).
I was also thinking about the height of Texas. Not elevation or anything, but just the average height of buildings. I know Asia in general has taller buildings because they have to cram stuff into a much smaller space. Of course America has lots of tall buildings, but they tend to cluster in awkward cliques called big cities and don’t let smaller buildings around since all of them would end up feeling a bit self-conscious. You feel big, at least in Texas. I feel rather tall and important as I whiz by three and four story buildings squatting modestly among the roads.
I didn’t get this impression in Taiwan, but I think in Korea I will feel a lot shorter and more apologetic to my surroundings. I will feel more like the mouse scuttling among table legs than the stately…whatever stately animal, deer, I guess, galloping in America. Maybe there’s a metaphor here about perspectives in Korea vs America, and philosophy and the value of independence vs fitting in and so and so forth. Maybe I shouldn’t look for the metaphor. Nasty, slippery things.