Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Two months ago, I cupped my hands and took a tiny sip of the Pacific. Yesterday morning I lapped up a palmful of the Atlantic. Yes, this highlights my disturbing addiction to salt, but I also think it speaks to how, in this new millennium, we’ve telescoped distance. How can we take geography seriously if all it takes is a six-hour plane flight to slam one side of the country up against the other?

We’ve tamed space. Time may still seize us by the scruff of the neck, but space we’ve wedged into a miniature sweater, thrust into a monogrammed pet carrier, and taken to the vet to be declawed.

I can’t decide whether this is a good thing. Yes, it’s amazing to be able to turn my back on both sides of the country, to hold in my head the limits of land, in my mouth the salt of the limits of land.

But if we had a bodily understanding of distance, if we knew, in our bones, all the inches between here and there, would we be so eager to put a Lowes in every town, a Panera on every block? Would we try to make every place just like the place we left if we grasped space on a human, rather than a vehicular, scale?

Maybe yes. It’s hard to resist the dastardly tractor beam of Panera. But maybe no. Maybe no is what gets me up in the morning.

That and salt. The Pacific was tastier than the Atlantic, In case you were wondering. Though possibly not as tasty as the Bonneville salt flats. Mmmmm.

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