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Which do you love, the mountains or the sea? August 3, 2011

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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Our friend Ben and Silence Dogood have seen far too many so-called “personality tests” that ask some version of this question:

Choose your favorite place/scenery/vacation site:

a) the mountains

b) the sea

c) a lake

d) a river

e) a forest

f) the desert

And so on. These tests claim that they can tell something about your personality from which type of scenery you choose. Do you think that’s true? And if so, what do the places or scenery you love say about you?

Our friend Ben loves the ocean and sandy shores. I find salt water and salt air revitalizing and love shells and other sea life. All life came from the sea, and I strongly feel the connection to this, my ancestral home. Just smelling salt air thrills me.

I also love the mountains. I love perching on the side of our most famous local mountain, Hawk Mountain, and looking at the land spreading out like a living map below, watching birds of prey and butterflies drift by at eye level. If I could build my dream home, it would be in the side of a mountain, faced with glass, with a fabulous viewing platform from which I could survey my visual domain. But I must say, I also love the lush valleys with their view of the mountains. I would not be sorry to live in a river valley looking up at the mountains framing my view.

And I love our East Coast forests, with their hemlocks and beeches, their azaleas and mountain laurels, their great boulders and many-hued lichens and mosses and ferns and mushrooms, and all the other diversity of plants and wildlife that make their home there. Forest rivers and ponds have a magic all their own; forest trails remind me of The Hobbit, calling ever onward. When I see a cabin home built in a forested setting, see sunlight streaming through the trees to light the forest floor with magic, I long to live there, too.

Then there’s the desert: the Painted Desert in Arizona, with its gorgeously colored rocks, the Four Corners section of New Mexico with its astonishing formations, the extraordinarily beautiful rock formations of Utah. I’m a lifelong rock collector; I’ve grown cacti since sixth grade; a lifelong dream is to visit Dinosaur National Monument; I have stood with awe before some of the archaeological ruins of the region’s cliff cities; I love the horned toads and other creatures that call the desert home, and have huge respect for the Native cultures that have found a way to live there and their extraordinary art forms. No, I could never bear to live in such a bare and arid place; my soul longs for the green of deciduous woodlands, the open view of valley fields. But wow, for vicarious delight through books and pictures and collectibles, it can’t be beat.  

Where wouldn’t I want to go? A lava field. A fjord. The Dead Sea or the Bonneville Salt Flats or Death Valley. The Arctic or Antarctica. The Rocky Mountains or Mount Everest. A rainforest. (Sorry about the rainforest part. But I hate heat, humidity and dampness, and was scared out of my wits as a very young child by a book that showed graphic depictions of the ferocious army ants massing along the rainforest floor and devouring anything in their wake. I guess I never recovered.) 

Mind you, we have friends who love the Rockies. Friends who lead tours to the rainforest or save up their money to go on birding trips there. Friends whose favorite scenery is the flat, endless Midwestern prairie. Friends who absolutely despise the ocean. Friends whose great dream in life is to move to the Southwest desert.

What does this say about them, and us? Our friend Ben has no clue. Certainly, the fact that we as a species are able to embrace, enjoy, and adapt to such a wide range of conditions—pretty much every climatic option offered on this, our home planet—speaks to our own versatility and offers one answer as to why we were able to survive and thrive. As for why some of us prefer certain forms of scenery and landscape conditions over others, could it be some sort of cellular memory of our various pasts? Or just the conditioning we were exposed to through our childhood vacations and where we were brought up?

What do you think? And which places are your favorites?

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