A couch becomes the story of spacetime and meaning.

Brian McGloin
2 min readJan 11, 2024
A nice, dark blue couch that doesn’t fit in the space very well. Photo by Brian McGloin

“Well, you see, it’s a perfect couch. When you sit on it you can watch the sun set and make beautiful and deeply interesting shadows and beams of light that change with the seasons,” is part of the story. It’s an unusual couch. The other part of the story is that the couch is too big for the space — any space in the house, really. It doesn’t fit. Sometimes to be comfortable, you must sit facing a certain way if you have one shape, a different way for another.

Of course it’s a couch. And if I simply tell you that it’s a couch, you’ll conjure a mental image that’s most like your experience and perception. While that is correct it isn’t as accurate as if I explain the couch with its magic power of sunsets and narrowly defined comfort.

Explaining a place is no different than that couch — is a couch a place? Yes, but we don’t think of it that way although we use it as a landmark and reference to time and place. The first image or meaning of “couch” we may conjure is a rectangular seating surface that skews more toward informality than the business of formality.

“Where is the thing?” You may ask, which will be met with the observation of the thing’s spacetime: It’s on the couch.

You can learn more about a place by walking or riding your bike to it than you can by reading about it, possibly. William Least Heat-Moon, Lebbeus Woods and Bruce Chatwin, to cite the first names to come to mind out of many who write about places in abstract terms, illustrate places but not necessarily political boundaries on maps or physical structures, rather the idea of the places. When they are, perhaps, not where they are; who the places are, not where.

If you believe in the European idea of land ownership, then it may seem like a stretch that a place is as much of an idea and convergence of stories as it is a place beyond a sign. In many cultures, places have the same history and personality as the people traveling through them and living there. To go from one place to another is to know the history, to understand where the place is in an abstract way. “This is where the epic rain triggered a mass wasting event that dammed the river, creating a lake,” instead of the Eurocentric eponym. Quake Lake compared to Smith Lake, for example. We name places after the words we assign people but not the story of the place or where it is.

It’s just a couch, it’s just a lake, it’s just a path.

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Brian McGloin

I'm immortal and I will take over the world. Photographer, writer, curious, bike rider, adventurer. https://www.brianmcgloin.com