Heterotopia

“The heterotopia is capable of juxtaposing in a single real place several spaces, several sites that are in themselves incompatible. “

It was French philosopher Michel Foucault, I think, who coined the term ‘heterotopia.’ A space that is both real and imaginary. Not freely accessible.A space that is other.

“..the boat is a floating piece of space, a place without a place, that exists by itself, that is closed in on itself and at the same time is given over to the infinity of the sea…”

Airports, like boats, are heterotopias.A place without a place.

And some airports are definitely better than other. A four-hour-stopover finds me wandering Seattle Airport, en route to Eugene, Oregon, for a conference.

I am neither here nor there. I give myself over to this heterotopic space. There is a terminal with soaring ceilings, beautiful shops, and best of all, a wine bar, Vino Volo.

I park my bags and have a flight of wines for $7:an Aragones from Portugal, a Grenache from France, and a Malbec from Argentina. There is a card describing the wines and a price list too (you can buy a bottle as you leave). I sip those wines joyfully: it’s been a very long day. And then I have the best mac and cheese of my life, made with Beecher’s cheddar, truffle oil and toasted breadcrumbs.

I watch travellers like myself take a moment for themselves. It being Seattle, nobody looks particularly rich; there is an abundance of sportswear. There’s something both modest and luxuriant about this little place.

“I believe that the anxiety of our era has to do fundamentally with space.”

I have been negotiating the small cramped spaces of my life for many months. In this mobile, other- space, I suddenly feel a transient sense of freedom I didn’t know I was longing for.

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