I just returned from a conference. And while the sessions themselves were wonderfully insightful (oh what fun to be a student again) I couldn’t help but feel really, REALLY displaced
especially when I looked out of my fourteenth floor hotel window.
Let me explain. My conference was held at Walt Disney World Florida. I know, I know, lucky me and the isolation from the “real world” made the whole retreat more like a retreat then work. Let’s face it, who doesn’t love Mickey?
the resort itself was so removed from the “real” world that after a while (a day) I felt unsettled.
It was pitch dark when arrived at the resort after a day of flying so after I checked in I promptly went to bed. The next morning, when I flung open the curtains to embrace the newness of the day, I was taken aback. All I saw were trees. Where were the churches? The schools? Hospitals? Streets of houses? Neighborhood coffee shops? Bookstores, for God sake? I get edgy if I don’t see a bookstore…bookstores are a sign of a civilized society.
Not one person was walking their dog, or mowing their lawn. No children were riding bicycles or seniors sitting on park benches eating ice cream. Everyone seemed an ambassador of Mickey Mouse. Which meant all were polite and friendly and extremely hospitable,
which did indeed freak me out some.
Maybe my uneasiness was due to the fact I wasn’t there to visit the Magic Kingdom. My intent was to attend sessions on poetry and rhetoric and Dante and not to mingle with princesses (although I encountered a few drama queens) or to spin in giant tea cups.
I couldn’t get my bearings because there didn’t seem to be any anchor.
Everything seemed to be temporary and artificial, which is fine when you’re on a pre-packaged, consumer driven holiday but it’s the feeling of permanence you get when people have invested in a community that makes a person feel at home even when she is visiting.
I needed to get into a car and drive off the property in order to feel grounded.
And so I did. And the further we drove the more settled I became. In fact, a feeling of calm settled upon me at the first strip mall a saw and then this calmness deepened when
I spotted a high school,
then a gas station,
and finally a bookstore.