The view, the view

by Judit Hajdu

I started deliberately using the scenery while I was living – for twenty-five years – in a house overlooking the edge of the town and its surrounding hills. I sipped my morning tea looking out, preparing for the day with the view as backdrop, contemplated problems on the balcony, where I had most meals with family and friends. And that was the place I set off from to explore more expansive vistas and the people inhabiting them, as I was sure one would have very different views on life – sorry for the pun – depending on what you can rest your eyes on daily basis.

Robert Macfarlane in his book The Old Ways, where he recounts his many walks criss-crossing the British Isles, quotes Nan Shepherd who, through exchanges between her and her beloved mountains, the Scottish Cairngorm,  “understood herself in some way thought by place.” This notion is not difficult to imagine if we regard the word ‘landscape’, as Macfarlane does, “a noun with a hidden verb: landscape scapes, it is dynamic and commotion causing, it sculpts and shapes us not only over the courses of our lives but also instant by instant, incident by incident.”

Intuitively we have known for centuries that the colour green, the sight of flora and fauna all have calming effects and by now a whole new branch of enquiries, called environmental psychology, has been developed to study the phenomenon and how it can be utilised in city design. With the advance of neuroscience, we are beginning to understand the mechanism as well.

One theme, however, I yet to find contemplation or research on: the effect of not what but how far we can see and the interaction of the two. The joy of seeing the horizon, as one of the prisoners I worked with on the Hungarian prison radio put it: “Every day I wait with anticipation for the few steps in the walk down to our workplace. As we turn the corner, suddenly my eyes can escape and I with it to travel far-far across the river to the place where the mountains shed their cloaks of mist. I feel there is a chance for a new beginning.”


Robert Macfarlane (2013), The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot, Penguin.

Nan Shepherd (2011), The Living Mountain (Canons): A Celebration of the Cairngorm Mountains of Scotland, Canongate Books Ltd, first published 1977.

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