Thursday, July 29, 2010
Hospitable places are sometimes not what you would imagine. The desert, for instance, where I spent many days, walking in open range land, unused land, foreboding terrain. Be held by a rock weather shaped to cradle you comfortably. Sit in clean sand. Lie in the night air and watch stars intensify with your head on your hands. Who would imagine the intimately hospitable place a desert can be. And places like this old abandon steel bridge over the Kansas River. Stop in the middle, get out and walk around, no hurry to get anywhere. But stay a moment and look at what this place has to offer. The water; and the light; and the shapes.... It feels hospitable. Inviting. Welcoming to the infrequent visit. This place was not contrived to be aesthetically pleasing. It was built to move stuff across the river. No one thought it had to be inviting, or architecturally stimulating. It wasn't designed to blend with the environment, or draw the eye to this or that feature. It wasn't made to stimulate the imagination, or provide a sense of inspiration. Yet it does all that. Beautifully. Gracefully. Unpretentiously. And so many of the places that are made to be hospitable... places of hospitality... are sometimes anything but. Places that are made to make you feel welcome, contrived as such, often do the opposite. You feel the pretensions, and suspect the hosts and hostesses of being keenly aware of the pretensions. The smile and thank yous from the person paid to smile and say thank you. The "hope you enjoy your stay" from those who mouth a script. The store clerks who ask you if you need any help because they are trained to be hospitable. No one here says don't stop on the bridge. No one says don't climb on the rails. Now one says anything, which is perhaps the most hospitable thing about this place. It just is. For any one who wants to go there and just be.