Change the angle of the rocks, shift the trees, leave out a fence but it is best not to move the mountains! These large objects are often our most significant directional anchor. This is important to any of us who still use North, East, South and West to get our bearings - as a way of finding and placing ourselves in our natural world (rather than relying on Google maps). This allows me to walk and drive around by what I call “following my nose” when I don’t know exactly where I am going. I can say things to myself like… I will just keep to the southeast slope and I should be able to find the look out. This is how I know where the sun will rise at different times of the year and, if I have the coordinates, I can find where the full moon will rise as well. I am quite clear now that not everyone has this kind of directional mind-map-squaring-up of where they are located in relation to everything else. I am often still puzzled by this realization. How do you know where you are if you don’t know which way is which? How can you even decide where to sit in the shade of a patio if you don’t know where the sun will be in an hour? Aaah! But I digress. Mountains! In particular Mount Baker which for us on Mayne Island is to the East. If you face the mountain and turn to the right of it, you are facing South. If you turn left of it, you are facing North. If you put your back to it, you can watch the sunset in the West. This mountain is a quick visual orientation shortcut. Yes, the sun rises and sets in a huge range of places on either side of this mountain depending on the season. As expected in our northern hemisphere, it will rise farther North on longer days during the summer and farther South on shorter days during the winter.
Yes, I can translate for you when I am giving directions. When I say something like, “just keep heading South along…..” and I get a kind of panicked stare in return, I can actually stop mid-sentence, find a landmark in my mind’s visual reference files and say something like “as you come out of the building, turn to the left and you will see the library building a little farther along on your right across from our small shopping centre. Drive up the little hill and keep going on this road and you will eventually come to the ferry terminal in about ten minutes.”
Usually the relief on your face, tells me this is a much better method for how you make sense of your surroundings. Both methods have their usefulness and one can work better than the other in specific situations. However, I get this horrible unsettled feeling when I can only go by left and right or behind and in front of directions that are most useful in the dark or oddly enough when I have to go on a subway and come back to the surface. These are times when I must rely on finding my way without really knowing where I am. Gives me shivers just to think about it! My dear husband says I would get use to it if I never knew, like him. And to be truthful, I have never known anyone who was calmer or more relaxed than he is.
So no worries, you will get to where you are going no matter which way you figure out how to get there…. As long as no one moves the Mountains! 😉
What does all this have to do with landscape painting you might ask? Well, let’s see…