Editorial: Rappahannock the Beautiful

A lot of things divide us, needless to say. Layered on top of the obvious political differences (Republican versus Democrat, liberal versus conservative), the list is long: young, old; men, women; native, newcomer; heterosexual, gay; educated or not; religious or not; rich or poor . . .

But at the start of a new year, let’s focus on what’s positive and bipartisan — the things that unite us. And of those ever (sadly) decreasing things, perhaps the most important is our shared sense of place, where we live. And of that small and special place we live, our shared perception of it:

Rappahannock County is beautiful. On that, we must all agree. And you don’t have to live here to share that perception.

A cross-cultural study not too long ago sought to determine how standards of beauty vary from group to group around the world, and the results were surprising:

No matter what your demographic or ideology or whether you’re Asian or European, American or African, art that depicts landscapes you consider the most beautiful. And the very most beautiful landscapes share these elements:

• Open spaces: especially a high prospect from which the observer can easily view the landscape.

• Trees (but not a forest) with branches low enough for climbing.

• A stream, river, lake or pond prominently displayed.

• A winding path or trail leading from the foreground to the horizon.

Sounds like a description of just about any Rappahannock vista, right? But it also describes the African savannas, from whence our earliest ancestors originated. Apparently that landscape is imprinted in our genes.

Open spaces and a high prospect allowed for scoping out food and shelter. Trees easy to climb offered quick escape from predators. Available water would quench our thirst. Accessible pathways invited exploration.

On the top of any New Year Resolution list should be the vow to keep Rappahannock beautiful, safe and soothing.

Walter Nicklin