Greens and browns bring gentle interest to San Antonio’s River Walk, where I soaked up winter sunshine last week. How could you not keep going to discover what’s around the bend?
Humans want to understand and to explore, both what’s in plain sight and what may lie ahead. Environmental psychologists Rachel and Stephen Kaplan say the landscapes that delight us—natural or designed—share four qualities:
Their framework fits more than landscapes. South Texas history and culture linked visits to the Alamo, the Mexican market, the presidio captain’s house, Spanish missions, and the Witte Museum (coherence), with easy access on foot or by bus (legibility), diverse sights and activities (complexity), and plenty to learn and discover (mystery).
Now I’m home, with a life that’s orderly and navigable, varied and filled with surprises. I think the Kaplans got it right.
I'm a historian who writes novels and literary nonfiction. My home base is Madison, Wisconsin.