I live a few blocks away from the Carter Center, named for Georgia's Favorite Son, Jimmy Carter -- who, word has it, was once president. It's a sprawling, rolling complex, really a triumph of planning -- while in the middle of the city, it's amazingly peaceful. Lots of trees, nicely landscaped, several ponds -- and despite being just a little ways from a major bypass, the dominant sound is of birds chirping.
But until recently, I never went -- despite being only a 15-minute walk, it may as well have been in Alabama. One of my first weeks here, my friend Laura took me there for a picnic, and until last week, I hadn't been back. Nearly seven years. It's a perfect place to sit and read, which I do most mornings, and during the week it's largely deserted. If it were in DC, it'd be thronged with tourists, but my first time back last week it resembled nothing so much as a very well-kept ghost town.
Separately, I had an off-the-cuff conversation with someone about Mexico -- that I lived in Tucson, two hours from the Mexican border, for seven years without ever venturing down there. There was, I suppose, a sense of "it'll always be this convenient." Likewise, down here, there's a LOT of things I've meant to see, but each year the seasons pass and I shrug, a bit ruefully, and say "next year I'll do it."
It's ridiculous, of course, to think that I'm ever going to see everything available, regardless of where I live. But I think constantly setting my sights far afield ("I want to see Russia/Cambodia/Turkmenistan/the moon") I often forget about the stuff that's right in my backyard.
It'd be nice if this marked a sudden sea change in philosophy, but it doesn't; it's just rumination. But at least I've got a nice little place to sit and read now.