judy kronenfeld

I guess there’s always a difference between the place that’s "in place," and a place in the mind’s eye. Like other experiences, the experience of place requires contrast to "place" it. To feel myself in one place, to feel place at all, I often have to experience it in contrast to other places I might be.

When I lived in New York as a child and adolescent, California was a symbolic "other" place, associated with some sort of existential freedom. I’ve lived in Southern California for the vast majority of my adult life, but I ask myself whether I’m there yet. Now that I live in California, New York has taken on some of the aura of the "other" place. I still identify with it profoundly, in my absence from it; yet actually being there on visits, like actually being in other places that were once home (Northern California, for example), is both familiar and alienating. Those former homes exist most vibrantly in memory, conjured by a certain quality of light, a certain density or softness of air, a certain fragrance of leaves or flowers, which, in themselves, seem almost more mental than physical things.