There is comfort in the familiar. I wake every morning and before rising I can lift my head and view the profiles of Dorr and Cadillac Mountains. They are landmarks in our village of Otter Creek, and are part of Acadia National Park. The asymmetrical gap between the two is called The Notch. I see it every day. It is a constant in my life, though no mornings are identical.
There may be snow dusting the flanks of the hills, or wet rocks gleaming. Each dawn brings a new, never seen before combination of color and light. The sun rises behind my house. Its light first hits the top of the mountain, and then grows, deepening as I wake. It eventually illuminates the valley. I am up and out by then. I know not everyone wakes to sunlight on mountains, as I do. I cherish each morning as unique, and yet constant.
So why go elsewhere? I have a morning view that leaves me at peace, content, and ready to meet the day. I do not think I will ever grow tired of it. Yet off I trot to an alien and less predictable space. It is February, and D and I go on our annual ski trip to Quebec. He was doing this long before he met me, and now we go together. He introduced me to a place that I share a heart with. It is a change of scene.
This yearly trek, skiing at Mont Sainte Anne and sleeping in the stuffy elegance of the old world Frontenac Hotel, has become familiar. But it is not the same familiarity I have at home, with the cat at the bottom of the bed, soft brown flannel sheets, and my morning mountain view. Instead I wake to diffused daylight, angular rooflines, and walk cobbled streets for an almond croissant I would never normally consider as breakfast. Things are different.
I hear French, and speak a bit. It does not fall smoothly from my tongue. The mountains here are bigger than in Otter Creek, and the city full of noises. The whispery sighs of the electric bus, the stamping of horse hooves on stone, the tinny music from the speakers at the skating rink, these are the reasons I come. Everything is fresh and new. I cradle the deep handle-less bowl filled with hot chocolate. I spin through the revolving door twice just for fun. I exclaim over the jewel-like quails eggs in the market. Different noises, tastes, smells, my senses go into overdrive to take it all in, and I know I am not taking it all in.
I never feel I am blasé about the magnificent scenery in Otter Creek. I believe I really every day appreciate what we have here. It takes a change of scene to show me I have indeed gotten just a bit less sharp in my perceptions.
A change of scene changes the way we look at things. It frees us from our everyday responsibilities and habits and allows us to see how different everything is. What is no doubt everyday in Quebec, the man strapped and clinging to the high roof to pull off snow, the seconds counting down on a display at street crossings, a door panel with women’s figures, are to us novel and exotic. We are delighted with the handrails on the buildings, to which we cling as we climb the steep icy sidewalks. For those who live here they are as mundane as our guardrails.
Quebec is a destination for skiing, the exhibits at the Museum of Civilization, or watching the bateau races on the St. Lawrence. These are all good reasons to go. But I go for a change of scene, to find novelty in someone else’s commonplace, and to remind my senses just what their purpose is.