higher ground

Rebuilt trenches at Vimy RidgeNot sure where I found this image, it has been on my desktop for months.  It presents the structure of the trenches, no long shots or avenues, the depth, the configuration, all of which take on, today, the appearance of a land art installation.  However, like yesterday's map of the Gallipoli Peninsula, there is high ground, full of threat, and there are valleys, where one is. 

It is, I suppose, psychogeography 101, that being visual beings, we like being high up in the landscape so that we can see what is below us.  Why else would new subdivisions have names such as Aspen Heights, and, in west Calgary, the confusing Valley Ridge? which is on the side of a valley, but clearly has aspirations.

JB Jackson's essay, 'Landscape Seen by the Military' compared the fields of war in Europe during WWII where he was a military intelligence officer, with peacetime land use: ordered, hierarchical, topographical.  He seemed to imply that war was just another social aspect of how we use land. I'm not sure about this relatively limp thesis, that we have pushed and shaped the land to map our sense of what is right and proper, and that the land has let us.  Well, we have pushed it around, but the land resists.  The trenches in farm fields in northern France were full of water for one thing: a high water table (which is what made them so fertile) and, in 1916, unusually bad weather.  The suicidal Gallipoli situation – the land was not the ANZAC's ally, nor was it for D-Day – again, men scrambling up beaches while batteries of guns at the top of the cliffs (whose erosion makes the beaches) fired down at them. 

Vitruvius has a whole section on the advantages of height: it is safer there.