Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Room with a View

This morning I was working on my itinerary to India. I wrote to the travel agent who is helping me and told her that in Varanasi I wanted a room with a view. I thought about this a lot after I wrote it. While traveling, I am hardly in my room. And yet, like so many of us, always want a room with a view.

Last spring in Istanbul my husband and I moved downstairs three times because the first room with a view was only available for two nights, the second, one floor lower, for the next two, and then, when he left me and went home, I found myself living on the street level. As Larry said, "we're moving down in the world." But what makes us suffer the inconvience of moving just for a fleeting glance of the Sea of Marmara.

Well, everything, I guess. We all want a perspective. A vista on the world. I am the kind of person who will panic in a stuck elevator or an MRI. But give me a view and I can breathe - if I can see the world. This was never made more real to me than when I agreed to wear a Winnie the Pooh suit at a children's book fair. The mask went over my head and I literally stopped breathing. Someone had to take over.

"Don't fence me in," has sort of been my motto for a long time. We all need it. Open spaces. A sense of freedom. Last summer L and I stayed in the south of Spain in an apartment that was billed as beach-front, which it was, but, for reasons to complex to go into, it actually had no window that looked out on it. The living room in fact was completely enclosed. My fantasy of standing on a balcony, looking out at the Mediterranean, dashed.

E.M. Forster understood this as much as anyone. When Lucy Honeychurch and Miss Bartlett arrive at their pensione in Florence, only to learn that the room with a view that had been promised to them was not available, the women are crestfallen. "I wanted so to see the Arno," Lucy says. It is of course Lucy's search for a room with a view that leads her to opening her spirit, to visiting the Santa Croce with no Baedeker, to experiencing life in its rawness, and, ultimately, to opening her heart and falling in love, as we all knew and hoped she would, with George.

In Forster's book there are many views and not just of the Arno. One character comes to "view" another in a new and special way. Someone does something with the "view" to doing something different.

So despite the annoyance I have sometimes caused my family (in the Caymans when I made us switch from a room with a pounding AC and a view of the parking lot to one that at sand level that looked at the Caribbean; in Istanbul when I made us change room three times just for a glimpse of the sea) they have in the end come to see the pleasure in seeing. Visual openness can lead to an openess of heart and spirit. And the two will go hand in hand.

I am excited for the journey ahead. I am looking forward to my view of the Ganges. And beyond.

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