Seek out small treasures in the margins
The second extrication is from the dominant ideas about place, nature and heritage. Particularly ideas about the kinds of places you might first think of going to in order to get away from the worries of your (now very unusual) everyday life.
The incidents that eventually prompted a number of governments to impose strict ‘social distancing’ were scenes similar to those in the UK, where people flocked in large crowds to a few beaches, heritage sites, parks or famous ‘beauty spots’.
The individual impetus of those in these crowds was to ‘get away’ and yet they could not escape from their narrow set of expectations about what and where they could get away to. So they ended up crowded into the same few places.
Part of what needs to be broken here is the idea that natural beauty or history is exclusively (or even more intensely) present in special sites, usually with big car parks and information boards.
Every street you walk down is a treasure of geology and materials, each window is a museum of symbols, every tree is a drama of buds, enkissings, wounds and blossoming. For once, many of us have the time to teach ourselves about these things.
Escaping to the marginalised, unnoticed places is also an escape from the ‘norms’; at the big specialised sites history is homogenised into single narratives by the heritage authorities; in the ‘beauty spots’ it is hard to see what is actually there through the glare of the romantic landscape idea.
We’re not really in the place, but the place is returning us to its image, in a remembered photograph or oil painting or an idea of one.