On Wednesday, I spent an absorbing morning at the Surgeons’ Hall Museums in Edinburgh (which I commend to you, particularly if your childhood was as saturated with morbid curiosity as mine was).
While there’s a definite and unsurprising intensity to the experience of looking at disembodied, often graphically diseased chunks and slices of human anatomy, it’s fair to say that almost every time I go somewhere new, my senses shift into some kind of overdrive. Everything feels a bit larger than life, a bit cinematic; the sensory world around me seems full of richness and hidden meaning. It’s exciting, but also rather exhausting (which is probably one reason why I’ve never been tempted to do the Young Aussie thing of travelling round the world for months or years at a stretch; after a day of intensity, I really like to have a good night’s sleep in my own bed.)
In daily life, I have a tendency to tune out the unvarying aspects of my environment. One of the reasons I love living here in Crieff is that the surrounding landscape changes dramatically with the seasons, the weather and even just the light; this keeps it “visible” to me, whereas, in the Cambridgeshire fens, even buildings as beautiful as King’s College Chapel tended to become obscured by familiarity: habituated-to, no longer noticed.
I know that it’s good for me to make the effort to go to new places (and, speaking from the primacy of artistic self-interest, that new poems very often result from doing so); nonetheless, part of me resists any upheavals in my comfortable routine, wanting to take the low-effort route, scurrying through a de-saturated sensory environment. Days like Wednesday remind me that this tendency is no friend to me, or to creativity.