OUR PHYSICAL SURROUNDINGS CAN BE A GREAT COMFORT OR A GREAT THREAT The influence of landscape, whether conscious of unconscious, is reflected in individuals and whole communities. People tend to feel happy and secure in some places, whereas other places may provoke fear and sadness. For instance, the emotions and relationships of people who are born into war or poverty will develop in a very different way to those who never experience trauma or dislocation. Many people feel strong sense of belonging to a landscape, others may feel alienated or isolated by the place in which they live.
Immigrants, exiles and refugees may have a very different relationship to a landscape from those born and raised there. People who are forced to leave one landscape and then accept another may take a long time to feel comfortable in their new home. They may find an unknown landscape alienating, dangerous and foreboding. Our environment can be a great comfort and bring many pleasures in life; in contrast it can also be very threatening bring up pessimistic emotions. Across the world, writers and film makers use landscape as a metaphor for human experiences and as a background to mundane and dramatic events.
Landscape may be seen in literal or metaphoric terms. Physical locale influences the way people live their lives and express their emotion, and becomes intertwined with their imaginative landscape. In Australia, landscape often represents both hardship and good times in person’s lives, as well as providing metaphors for their personal characteristics. For example, rural people are depicted as “solid as Ayers Rock” during difficult times. By contrast, coast dwellers are often represented as carefree people who are ‘riding the wave’ of prosperity and relaxed living.
The environment that the rural residents have to endure can be very tough. The harsh terrain and the extreme climate changes during summer require physically demanding work in order for the inhabitants to survive there. This is not a landscape that encourages softness of feeling or intimacy. The people are hardened by difficult times. In juxtaposition city dwellers have much less physically demanding occupations and the environment of the coastal regions is far less hostile. Thus the people that live there have a relaxing approach to life.
People’s lives are often shaped or determined by the landscape in which they live. One’s experience of unfamiliar or hostile landscape and situations impact upon one’s personality and values. Some adapt and some resist, but all are affected. There are people out there that change their landscape in hope of finding a better one that promises a good future, these people are immigrants, refugees and exiles. However they find that it is not easy to leave your home and family. People can remain so tied emotionally to the feelings associated with home, that no other landscape cans ever be as meaningful for them.
The reason people abandon their homeland is because they are drawn to the world outside their small communities, often by desire for a richer intellectual life as a lawyer, doctor or teacher in a modern city like Australia. They are torn between love for their families and the fear that they will be bound to the poverty and low life style that their parents have led. The price they pay is a constant loss and displacement. The poverty and essentially no hope for the future forced my family and me to leave our country and find a better place to pursue our dreams.
After many years of patiently waiting, we finally arrived in Australia. I was fourteen at the time. From the moment we landed in our new home everything felt different, even the air seemed like it has changed. From the outside Australia looks beautiful, modern and clean, but as soon I entered this world of perfection I felt like an outsider. There was nothing I could relate to in this foreign county, the food, the clothes, the people and even the weather was completely unfamiliar to me. Sense of displacement and loneliness I felt for the first three years were so solid.
I felt like the “lonesome and all alone” brown seagull, surrounded by all pure white gulls in “The Return” . Deep down I knew this place could offer me many more opportunities in life then my home country, but the thought of always being a lonely outsider was so frightening. Gradually over the years as i became familiar with my new landscape I began to adapt to it. My English improved and I was able to communicate with people that couldn’t speak my native language, this drove away the loneliness that surrounded me when i just arrived in Australia.
The more I connected with the Australian people the more I started to feel secure and optimistic about living in this country. A place where once I felt threatened and afraid became a place where I feel comfortable and happy. One landscape is experienced in many different ways by different people. Although you might look out the window and see the same landscape as the person sitting next to you, in reality, no two people see or experience the landscape identically.
Australians imagine the landscape differently depending on our person experience, racial group, class and gender. Indigenous Australians and white Australians, for example, do not share the same experience of the landscape. The same can be said of the ways in which men and women experience the landscape. For example, a landscape in which modern western women might feel comfortable in might have the opposite effect on a woman who is from a muslin background, who may feel insecure. Landscape acquires meaning primarily through human experience and the marks of history.
You may one day take a backpacking trip to Russia with which you will later associate many pleasant memories. A veteran of the World War two, however, may bring a whole different set of associations to the same landscape. The same can be said of people who travelled through Bali before and after the bombings in 2002. Events occur on landscapes that then change their meaning irrevocably, the people who are influenced by the event will have different views of the people who haven’t.
Some landscapes can bring up delightful memories and provoke happy emotions; however, there are other inevitable circumstances that are associated with a landscape which later may bring up sad feelings. These landscapes of individuals form over time, and are affected by circumstances and events of varying magnitude. Every single person has a place where he/she feels great comfort and happiness, and a place where he/she feels great threat, some of them may adapt to the conditions and some may resist, but everyone all are affected.