I’ve been reading “At Home” by Bill Bryson. I enjoy his wandering, circling style of storytelling and how he connects everything, even the simplest things, to something else. That reminds me of John Muir telling us that when we try to separate a single thing we find it attached to everything else in the universe. It’s quite amazing how Bryson does just that. One sentence you are in his English home and the next you are walking with Romans. The connections are interesting and fun, and you see that a home is the culmination of centuries of life. He says: “Houses aren’t refuges from history. They are where history ends up.” That’s a fascinating perspective that opened my eyes in a new way to the things around me.
In the introduction Bryson writes about needing to go into the attic of his old house, once a rectory for the adjacent Anglican church. He shimmies through a hole in the ceiling, and looking around, sees something startling – an unexpected door. It opens easily onto the roof where he has a view of the place where he lives. He’s been around this place a lot, walked the streets, been in the pubs and shops, in the church and cemetery. It’s all very familiar to him. But from the rooftop it’s entirely different. He now sees it from a new angle, a different perspective, and he looks around with wonder.
Of course, this got me thinking about the art of interpretation. Isn’t the above exactly what we do? We tell stories that make connections; we place our visitors in locations so that they see their world differently; we transcend time to show how the past influenced our lives today; we share varied perspectives; and we increase the value of the experience and the sense of place.
French novelist, critic, and essayist, Marcel Proust said: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” Bill Bryson’s small journey to his rooftop and seeing the place where he lived from a new perspective gave him “new eyes,” and a new and different perspective of his world, and led to a multitude of stories.
We keep marching on at the speed of time: one second per second. Now a new year is upon us, a year never before seen, a new temporal landscape filled with opportunity and promise.
A challenge before us is to see this new year with “new eyes,” and to take ourselves and our visitors to places we have been before and to “see” them new perspectives, new stories and new connections that bring our resources to life in new, meaningful, memorable ways. Sounds like fun.
Best wishes for a wonderful new year!