I have been travelling extensively over the last month. New York was my first stop.
It is always a treat to experience the visual shock of sky scrapers after the horizontally soothing landscape of beaches and oceans. I am reminded of the excitement I have always felt travelling through an unknown city using the underground- I submerge in the midst of a muscular city centre only to reappear in some quirky, eccentric neighbourhood- the sudden and abrupt contrast exciting my senses.
In New York, my eyes could not comprehend the unflinching buildings. They seemed like beasts - so statuesque and sure of their own importance and existence. In such a ‘concrete jungle’ experiencing the swelling seas of people was so alien to my normal existence on Grand Bahama, I was the archetypal tourist, eyes wide, mouth open- excitedly seeing everything for the first time.
After other surprising and diverse landscapes, I have returned to Scotland (where I was born). When I left here at Christmas time, my eyes were firmly set on the beckoning horizon of Grand Bahama Island, the place I have now come to consider home, I was so happy to leave Scotland, a dark land of rain drenched browns, blacks and greys. After just over a year of living in Scotland, I was unimpressed with the scenery, the people, the life. My skin and eyes were too used to turquoise, blue and pink, the warm sun and smiles of the Bahamas.
So it was with reticence I answered my parent’s invitation to come ‘home’ for a ‘holiday’. And here I am. In the midst of summer - rain drenched green and brown.
But, absence makes the heart grow fonder or indeed absence has returned me to the role of tourist. And it is with clear eyes I can suddenly see the tumbling burns (small rivers), the beauty of the hills, that grand dame - Edinburgh’s sky line. I see even the details of the flies captured in the fine mesh of spider webs, the thick textured gnarly trees, ribbed with lichen and moss, the smell of the cut grass, the noise of the burn and buzzard.
Being a tourist allows you to really see, feel and be in a place. It means that we are curious and attentive to every difference. The archetypal tourist has necklaces of cameras, to record the sights of this new world. In our own environments and homes we have often forgotten how to open our eyes and see. Really see and experience. Our whole existence becomes dulled by the familiarity of our life.
We forget to open our eyes to miraculous and endless different experiences. If my children are bored I tell them, in the annoying know-it-all way of mothers, that they will not be bored if they would just use their eyes and senses to look and really see. The world, in whatever environment, is so full of exciting and curious details and relationships. Buildings linked by the charcoal lines of telegragh and electricity wires, the sensation of hot splatters of rain at the start of a thunder storm, tiny flowers with optimistic faces hidden under thick crab grass, the noise of a bird singing early in the morning. All are waiting to be discovered afresh.
Observation is the first part in the process for any artist. It is this keen insight into life, maybe visual, social, political, aural or emotional, that provides the starting point for a new piece of art. Then the artist may represent (re-present) this first insight to allow the viewer a fresh vision.
However, it is not just ‘artists’ that can have the advantage of fresh sight, keen observation and conscious sensation, we can all dip into being a tourist and enjoy seeing and experiencing our familiar world anew.