When I daydream about living at Hogwarts, Harry Potter doesn't need to be there. I want to travel the Mississippi on a raft of sticks and leave Huck behind or discover Wonderland or Oz without Alice or Dorothy. I'm more distressed by Raskolnikov's yellow apartment than I am by him, and I can't imagine living with eight children in a shoe. When place makes itself present in fiction, it has the capacity to become stronger than the characters.
Frequently I find that my daydreams revolve around place. I think of living in Colorado, Finland, Ireland, Italy, or Alaska (especially the fictional town of Cicely). Place captures our imaginations and desires, and we can get caught up in thinking, "if only I lived there..."
In many ways place does influence our moods and contentment. That's why Owen and I are so hooked on coffee shops! With our domestic responsibilities out of sight, our minds feel clearer and we can do our work better. The smell of coffee and the standard comfortable chairs also add an element of coziness. Similarly, I have to visit my home in Colorado every few months to breath in the mountain air and reclaim myself. Everywhere I go, I attempt to bring the colors of home, brown and blue, into my life. We've painted our new kitchen blue and orange, like the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. Even the little touch of color makes me happier.
However, place can't make us happy by itself. The purity of mountain life is slighted when our relationships are in turmoil. When I say that moving made Owen and I happier as individuals, I should qualify that it didn't change our relationship. In our new home we face the same repetitive arguments that we dealt with in our crummy apartment. Owen still says he'll do a task for me, but gets distracted before he can complete it, and I still get mad at him and nag him to be different, at times leaving him feeling like he does everything wrong. Thankfully, Owen and I are able to step back from our arguments enough so that I can assure him that he does not do everything wrong, but does things differently from me... and that I just need to chill.
Owen and I are hooked on that silly reality show called Love in the Wild. As Owen describes it, it's a combination of all the different reality shows in one. An equal number of men and women compete in athletically challenging (and sometimes frightening) races in the jungle. The end goal is to fall in love with one of the other contestants in the show. Each episode a male-female team wins a night at The Oasis, a gorgeous house with an indoor/outdoor pool and full service bar. The team that comes in last has to stay in the lean-to, with no walls or beds. Regardless of the couples' lodgings, you can see that the people who enjoy each others company have good evenings and the people who dislike each other have bad evenings. Even a place as beautiful as The Oasis can't make people happy.
This doesn't make the value of being in a place that makes you feel happy and comfortable any less, I don't think, it's just a reminder that place isn't enough by itself. Certainly I encourage people to search for those places that make them happy, but would warn that it won't be enough to fix relationship problems.
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