“Distance is the soul of beauty.”
– Simone Weil
“The best views in Victoria are of another country,” poet Nicholas Bradley said. In spring 2019, I invited him to speak to my class of international students at Royal Roads University, just outside of Victoria on Vancouver Island. Professor Bradley was delivering his talk in a third-floor room whose suite of windows offered a panorama of peaks he’d written about in his poetry, including that of Mount Olympus.
However, there is nothing to view, just a poignant vibration, at one important spot before Mount Olympus. Twenty kilometers down the Strait, as the crow flies, the Canadian border touches palms with that of the United States. Two nations straining at one another as if curious beasts separated by glass.
Having been born in the United States and recently become a Canadian permanent resident through my husband, I have one hand on each side.
Staring out the windows of that third-floor room, I saw the mountains surge toward me, their snowy peaks like memories foaming at the mouth.
“There’s something useful about being able to view your country from a distance,” Professor Bradley assured us.
Rebecca Solnit wrote an essay about regarding San Francisco, where I lived for a decade, from across the water in redwood-rich (and just rich) Marin County: “Some things we have only as long as they remain lost, some things are not lost only so long as they are distant.”
I agree with both of them. Distance is clarity, sharpened on a far wind.