Tuesday, December 15, 2009


It's funny how a place can get into the mind, and really begin to affect how we think about things. I was discussing with a friend a month or so ago the importance of place in our thinking, and how our environment can shape us so completely, without us even realizing it. Since I started splitting my time each year between two homes, this has become even more apparent to me.

This year, I was fortunate enough to be engaged to write a travel guide on the city of Suzhou. I've been there a number of times over the years, but have taken it mostly as a place to visit, enjoy, and then move on. It has long ranked as one of my favorite spots to visit, full of lots of beautiful places to see, but not a lot more than that.

As I've been researching, thinking, planning for the guide, and just generally having Suzhou on the mind, I've found it really getting hold of everything that goes through my mind. I want to know more and more about Chinese gardens. I want to understand the depth of thinking that goes into gardening and appreciating those gardens. It is really a captivating subject to consider.

And the nice thing is, I've found that it gives me something of a quiet space inside my head. The environment of Suzhou got into my mind when I made recent visits there in order to research for the book, and somehow that quiet, thoughtful environment has remained inside as a place I can sort of retreat into when I need it. (Which is often.)

I suppose that this is what I love most about travel. The change of environment can allow for a change of thinking, if you pay attention. It can push you out of the same old train of thought that accompanies the daily routine, and give you a new mode of thinking. It is amazing how that works.

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