Tuesday, 1 April 2008


When I arrive home from work, my house feels a certain way. If I come home via a different route. It feels like different place. If I come home from holiday, it feels like somewhere else again. If my mother visits, I have a party or its 2 a.m and I am alone, it provides a different set of impressions completely.

These, i suppose are what I would term "atmospheres": how a place feels to you.

And yet, we have no vocabulary for such feelings. The atmosphere of my dining room on christmas day, during lunch, has a flavour, a scent, some kind of set of sensations it engenders inside my mind. But there are no words for it. Ok, there is cosy and homely and comfortable, but nothing with which to describe the components of thses impressions.
Do we all have them? I am supposing we do. All of us feel spaces differently, i suspect, but we all feel them, of this i am certain.
But why no words? Is it such an elusive, personal feeling each time that we could not fit words to such an abstract concept? Why not? We have many other named abstract concepts.
And why are these sensations, engendered as they are by places and spaces, not really discussed the way that say, flavours are, or colours, or flowers?

For instance, as a boy, catching sight of a wooded, rocky hillsde would engender a sense of adventure; I would want to explore, build dens, make bows and arrows, just adventure! ANd as an adult, I feel the echo of this looking at exciting wild places, I just don't know why anymore.
Consider a set of hills in the foreground, on a summers eve at twilight. The wistful feeling it produces inside. We must surely have all felt something of this. How do we describe it?

I will be thinking of this when I move from place to place. Some description must surely be possible.


Magdalene said...

I know exactly what you mean, but I always try to put impressions in to words if I can. It's not always very accurate, but maybe that's why poetry was invented? Also I think we are so used to interpreting everything through our five major senses that we have lost the ability to think, feel, sense or wahtever in other ways. Animals clearly use other senses and ways of interpreting their environments, maybe it's something we could learn again?

Lady of Serendip said...

I am sure that much of the 'atmosphere' must relate to who you are sharing it with and feelings of personal space. When I am in the house on my own it is my domain. When other family members then come home, I am immediately conscious that they are there. The rooms they are in are no longer mine. However, that is quite a different impression from that I receive when I come home and the others are already here. The house then feels alive and welcoming. But,yes, you are right Pete, there is no name and it must be different for us all as it is an emotional thing IMO.

PerlNumquist said...

well, i guess since we have so few words for something as prosaic as smells (ok "acrid", "earthy", "rancid" but otherwise they are similes "sharp", "lemony") it seems unlikely that anything as abstract as atmospheres get labels. However, they are most profound and I am surprised they are not discussed more.