Monday, November 2, 2015

What's Location Got to Do with it?

I live in Baltimore. I know what you’re thinking…The Wire, The Riots, burnt out buildings, murder capital. I’m in the county, not the city, but even then there’s much more to Baltimore than that.

Baltimore, however, is not what readers on this blog associate me with. That’s because I’m always talking of that tiny guitar shaped island nestled in the Eastern Caribbean. St. Kitts. I spent the first 24 years of my life there. It is home. It will always be home. Some of the views I had from my veranda included lush green mountainsides in the center of the island, gently sloping to the serene azure Caribbean Sea.  Blue skies across which sailed puffy white clouds, and endless golden sun kissed the melange of trees waving in the warm sea breeze.
Here I was inspired to write much prose, mostly in a dialect of English with no formal written format. So how did I end up in Baltimore?  While you don’t have a choice in where you are born, people think you have a choice in where you live out your adult life. I don’t believe that. Where we live is chosen for us by education, employment, family, and love, just to name a few.

I left my little piece of paradise to pursue an education, because as beautiful as the island is, there were no
Universities on the island at that time. After a brief stint in the US Virgin Islands, I moved to Brooklyn, New York. The contrast couldn’t be more obvious. No mountains, no beach, no cluster of trees (at least where I lived). After 4 years of 3hr commutes underground in a subway, of leaving in the dark and returning in the dark for 4 months of the year, I couldn’t take it another minute. I moved the Charlottesville Virginia to pursue a doctorate.

I was enamored with Charlottesville. It was countryside, with endless trees, beautiful greenery and stunning architecture and lots of history. Most of all, everything I needed was within a one mile radius of my dwelling place; no 3 hour commute (Yeah!). However within two weeks I had seen all there was to see, done all there was to do in Charlottesville (except skiing, snowboarding, white water rafting , hunting and drinking myself to oblivion at the many bars on The Corner, all of which didn’t interest me in the least). I was bored. The good news, it was a great place to focus on my dissertation research and keep fit.

When I received my PhD, after many years of a long distance engagement, and 3 years of a long distance marriage, I finally moved to Maryland to be with my husband.  The suburb of Baltimore County was my happy medium. Just twenty minutes outside the city meant our work commute was pretty short. Besides it allows us access to the many things Baltimore City has to offer. Yes there are burnt out buildings, yes there are pockets of high crime areas in the city, but there is so much more to Baltimore City. There’s the beautiful Inner Harbor with National Aquarium and Science Center, and Port Discovery Children’s Museum which is perfect for families with children. There are lots of arts and literary festivals, a writer’s dream. There is Peabody, the academy for the arts, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and many theaters where live performances could be seen and so much more. Unlike Charlottesville, there is enough cultural diversity to satisfy every palate.

But when I leave the city, I return to my sleepy suburban community where the streets are empty at nights, where little ghost and goblins, superheroes and princesses go trick-or-treating on Halloween, where lawns are elaborately decorated at Christmas (and just about every holiday). There isn’t an Ocean close by, but we are at the gateway of the Chesapeake. If boating was my thing (it’s not) I could walk to any of several mariners across the street and sail into the Chesapeake.

What I love the most about where I live is the parks. I go jogging/walking most morning in the park nearby. Other people walk their dogs and we have inadvertently formed a community. If a person is missing we wonder where that person is. I look around at the trees especially during the fall and spring with the blaze of colors and I am inspired.

So, how did living in all those places affect my writing? It didn’t. In St. Kitts, I found inspiration in the scenery, the people, and the culture. In New York, I found inspiration in people of all cultures and tongues riding the trains daily. In Charlottesville, I found inspiration in the greenery and the outdoors, and in Baltimore I find inspiration in all kinds of things.

Face it, whether you have a mountain vista, a sea view and trees in galore, or a brick wall, most of us write in an enclosed room facing only a computer, surrounded by four walls. So what does location have to do with writing? Not a darned thing.


Charles Gramlich said...

Much like New Orleans. There are blighted areas that have never come back from Katrina, and high crime sections. But there are beautiful peaceful neighborhoods as well.

S. Connell Vondrak said...

Beautiful but yes with writing a room with no distractions is best.

Jewel Amethyst said...

Charles, no matter where you go in every major city in the US and most developed countries, there are always two cities within. There are the blighted areas (often labeled "Urban")in which the poor and economically disenfranchised live and the yuppified regions where the up and coming, highly educated urban middle class live, and it's often close to the touristy areas with lots of arts and entertainment.

Jewel Amethyst said...

Connell, I've read blogs of many authors discussing their writing space. About a quarter has an office in which they write, but the vast majority write from their beds in the middle of the night. No distractions.

I personally can write almost anywhere. When I'm writing I'm transported to the place in my story and is totally unaware of my surroundings. But like many authors, my bed is my preferred writing space late at nights when I can't hear "Mommeeeeeeeeey!"

Liane Spicer said...

Well said. I'm a bed writer myself, always have been.