Monday, 5 Aug 2002

After spending four days in Shennandoah County, I find, retrospectively, Chicago is very flat. I didn’t realize, or had forgotten, what terrain was like. It makes you live in places a little differently.

In Shennandoah, there’s usually only one way to get somewhere and that way is determined by the land it goes through. Directions are limited to from town and to town, and when you’re walking, to upstream, downstream, uphill, and downhill.

Chicago, on the other hand, has a way of stamping the four points of the compass on the brain. Other means of reference don’t seem as fundamental. Streets go straight, there are as many ways to get someplace as there are lateral blocks to the longer axis of your journey, and you need only know the address of a place to know how far it is.

I’m periodically struck by this difference. It differentiates the two places more, to my mind, than some of the differences between city and country that more readily spring to mind, when I consider the subject abstractly.