The view

Since E. M. Forster’s novel (1908)  “A Room with a View” people have questioned the significance of a yearning for a view.

The novel opens in Florence with the women complaining about their rooms at the Pensione Bertolini. They were promised rooms with a view of the River Arno but instead have ones overlooking a drab courtyard. Another guest, Mr Emerson, interrupts their “peevish wrangling” by spontaneously offering to swap rooms. He and his son, George, both have rooms with views of the Arno, and he argues, “Women like looking at a view; men don’t.” Charlotte rejects the offer, partly because she looks down on the Emersons’ unconventional behaviour and because she fears it would place them under an “unseemly obligation”. However, another guest, Mr Beebe, an Anglican clergyman, persuades Charlotte to accept the offer; Charlotte suggests that the Emersons are socialists.

In the course of what follows in the book it becomes evident that one’s view of the world changes dramatically and unexpectedly; specifically it evolves that one’s initial view is either entirely mistaken or better than anticipated. The view may also become unpleasant, like the murder on the piazza or the thunderstorm in the country or the conflict of lovers in the meadow or drawing room.

All this has prompted me to consider my own view of the world here on Key Largo.  Looking through the floor-to-ceiling windows upon the marine inlet I see sub-tropical plants, crushed coral and sea shells upon the walkway, bobbing boats in the inlet, an extraordinary bloom of bougainvillea upon the opposite side, wavering palm trees and a cloudless blue sky.

I have attempted to capture many of the local views photographically. It has been an easy enterprise; but it is apparent that I am prone to alter the view, to “edit” the portrayal. I consider this more an artistic than a factual alteration. I certainly don’t consider it a deceit; rather it is at most variation of the perception. Routinely I have sought to diminish the putative specious character of my editing by reasoning that it is instead nothing more exact than remodelling of the awareness. And to be perfectly frank I have to ask for whom this is a discredit? The improvement of one’s view is after all axiomatically a strictly personal undertaking. If others choose not to accept the identical perspective this does nothing to proclaim adverse entitlement. The view is always a matter of choice.

I imagine that if any one of us were to retrace our history – though perhaps not so poetically as Frank Sinatra in “It was a very good year” – we’d catalogue an account of ups and downs, triumphs and failures, loves and losses. But the sustaining energy like the changing patterns of the sun on its own axis is hanging on and continuing to look toward the bright side. Regrettably it is the peril of those who are unable to do so that they lose their moorings and sometimes immerse themselves in horrible consequence. Trusting as I do the innate bent of a living creature to preserve itself I am of two minds regarding these sometimes catastrophic events.  By contrast I don’t for a minute attribute to myself any heroism to sustain my strength and perspective through such troubling times.  There is a point at which one acknowledges the fortuity of life and its random accord to some but not others.

Another critical feature of the view of one’s life, whether now or in the past, is the propensity or advisability to withdraw from the disagreeable moments. To surface upon these erstwhile submersions is as characteristic as recovering from a bad cold and losing all recollection of the former mortification. It is a pattern I have always admired in animals in particular, their seeming ability to recover unhindered from a prior challenge or loss.

The human character is a complicated one. I won’t lessen the eagerness or longing of any one of us for a preferred view. I won’t contradict someone about how they see themselves or others or the world around us all. There is in my experience little to be gained by asserting such contrary opinion. Very often the more improving solution is to enlarge upon the identification of that particular view of the world. It is frequently in the details of analysis that the difference of the view is perceived.

It Was A Very Good Year
by Frank Sinatra

When I was 17, it was a very good year
It was a very good year for small-town girls
And soft summer nights
We’d hide from the lights on the village green
When I was 17

When I was 21, it was a very good year
It was a very good year for city girls
Who lived up the stairs
With all their perfumed hair
I watched it come undone
When I was 21

When I was 35, it was a very good year
It was a very good year for blue-blooded girls
Of independent means
We’d ride in limousines
Their chauffeurs would drive
When I was 35

And when the days grow short
In the autumn of my years
I will look at my life like vintage wine
From fine old kegs
From the brim to the dregs
It will flow sweet and clear
It was a very good year

“It Was a Very Good Year” is a song composed by Ervin Drake in 1961 and originally recorded by Bob Shane with the Kingston Trio. It was made famous by Frank Sinatra’s version in D minor,[3] which won the Grammy Award for Best Male Vocal Performance in 1966 and became Sinatra’s first number one Adult Contemporary single, also peaking at No. 28 on the Hot 100.

Drake composed the song in 1961 at the suggestion of record producer Artie Mogull, who told Drake that Bob Shane of The Kingston Trio needed a solo to include in the group’s upcoming album Goin’ Places. Drake wrote the song in less than a day, although he had been considering employing the metaphor of life as a vintage wine in a lyric for several years prior. Ervin Drake’s inspiration to write the song was his then wife-to-be, Edith Vincent Bermaine. She was a showgirl whom he had dated and eventually married twenty years after the song was written.