I used to think the coal power plants we passed on the motorway were cloud factories and was so comfortable with this idea of a man-made sky. Looking back into that landscape is different without the whimsical beliefs of a child, but I still find it comforting despite knowing the true use and environmental cost of these structures. I have always found immense comfort in familiar scenes and places. I feel sometimes as though certain familiar landscapes are like companions, and the act of walking them alone makes me more comfortable with being alone, something I find difficult without a person to speak all my thoughts aloud to. Often in these moments I want to find bodies of water to walk alongside, the old docklands and the Thames path are recurring routes. Rebecca Solnitt coined the term ‘Blue of Distance’ in her Field Guide to Getting Lost. It relates primarily to the horizon often appearing blue due to light particles becoming lost over distance, but it also speaks of a wider sense of longing, lostness, and distance, though in an uplifting rather than a cynical sense. 


Horizons have both an anchoring and itinerant effect in this way. Like the horizon in my memory of the cloud factories, it is comforting in its familiarity but also a portal into another world where factories make fluffy shapes of water vapour rather than smog and co2. The horizon is perpetually in a future state, never to be reached, as then it is no longer a horizon. It is temporal; generating imagined future scenarios as well as connecting with pasts that have materialised as destinations. Perhaps most important is its capacity to be a symbol to realise new possibilities, often political. The promise of the horizon is tied to the potential transformation of society, it is the path towards either more of the same in the guise of progress, or revolution and utopia. The issue of the horizon leads us to believe there can be a different, if not better, future. Whether we are walking in nature and it leads us to contemplate our personal path, or whether we need it to advance society and push us towards change- good or bad. It is a signifier, a sign pointing towards something that we do not yet and can never know until it has already passed.


The idea of the horizon as an anchoring tool can help us to reflect on the comfort of familiar scenes too. When I think of these scenes of chimneys from a car window, I am comforted by the unplaceable temporality of the horizon, the otherworldly futuristic nature of my childhood imagination. I find comfort in the many journeys I have previously taken through the same route at different ages and the many journeys of members of my family. Some scenes I want to preserve now that I am no longer a child, to protect the peaceful memories I have of them, and to feel as though I am speaking to a friend, a family member who once walked the same route. The enduring physicality of the phenomenon can also be a comfort and anchor in itself; most scenes on this planet must lead to that same end. Finding solace in the recognisable is possible even if it is simply looking at a line that divides earth and sky, or even if that recognisable is in a childhood memory, distanced from reality but existent in the imaginary.