MacFarlane, Robert “The Old Ways” (Viking 2012)

We tend to think of landscapes as affecting us most strongly when we are in them or on them, when they offer us the primary sensations of touch and sight. But there are also the landscapes we bear with us in absentia, those places that live on in memory long after they have withdrawn in actuality, and such places–retreated to most often when we are most remote from them–are among the most important landscapes we possess. Adam Nicholson has written of the ‘powerful absence[s]’ that remembered landscapes exert upon us, but they exist as powerful presences too, with which we maintain deep and abiding attachments. These, perhaps, are the landscapes in which we live the longest, warped though they are by time and abraded though they are by distance. The consolation of recollected places find its expression frequently in the accounts of those –exiles, prisoners, the ill, the elderly–who can no longer physically reach the places that sustain them (198).

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