In Yi-Fu Tuan’s chapter on “Time in Experiential Space” he mentions that “when we look outward we look at the present or future; when we look inward we are likely to reminisce the past… going up a river to its source is to return symbolically to the beginning of one’s own life.” (Tuan126). In Margaret Adwood’s story “Death by Landscape” there are several instances where we see a form of Tuan’s concept occurring.
“Death by Landscape” is a story of a mother named Lois looking back at her childhood when she attended a camp and made a very good friend there named Lucy. At first Lois seemed to dislike camp but she gradually became use to it and came to enjoy it. Lucy on the other hand arrived at camp one year sluggish and lazy hating her home and the seemingly juvenile activities she had to put up with in camp. On the day of the traditional canoe trip the campers rowed their canoes across a lake and made camp on its other shores. Nearby there was a sort of cliff or ridge called “The Lookout” where Lois and Lucy went up to for a walk to enjoy the scenery and gaze at the lake they just crossed. At one point in this scene, Lois left Lucy alone at the top of the hill, when she did Lucy disappeared. She most likely fell to her death in a suicidal attempt because she hated her life which we make note of on page 110 when Lucy says “I hate it there”.
Alright, first off we have the rowing of the canoes across the lake. Though it may not be a river it’s still some body of water and I feel that it relates to how Tuan spoke of going up a river a return to ones birthplace. In knowing this information we feel a sense that something will happen at the other end of the lake and of course death occurred. There’s nothing closer to returning to ones birth than dying because it is a return to nothingness which is what you were a short time before being born. On another note when the girls reach the top of “The Look Out” the girls stare “outward” across the lake they just canoed across (Adwood 111-112). From what Tuan has told us, looking outward is like “looking at the present or future”. Obviously Lucy was looking at her present unhappy state and decided to create her own future by taking a dive off the cliff. When Lucy was alone at the cliff Lois had her back turned facing in the opposite direction (inland), she was always looking toward the past from that point. She reminisced over days where Lucy was happier and enjoyed the camp more with her and 20 years later she still looks toward the past on the day Lucy disappeared.
Sometimes our outlooks on life change and we see the world differently as time goes on. Sometimes, we see the world the same way and time stands still for us. It all depends on whether you were looking outward or inward at a certain time and place in your life.