Monday, April 21, 2014

Hidden realities 4 - Invisible landscapes

We live in more worlds than one and ignore them, because they hide in the background. We can glimpse them, in certain moments, in certain directions, in certain details. These are small revelations we should be thankful for.
Until it revealed itself I didn't know I could see a lake from my kitchen window. And I didn't know that in certain moments, from the same window, I could see a mirage of an oriental city or a forest of pine trees.

The lake revealed itself in a bottle of mineral water reflected in the glass surface of the kitchen table. And the city-forest appeared in the sunrise reflections in the windows of a neighboring street. I could have missed both revelations and it was pure luck that I could catch both moments.
But I was not unprepared. I had read Peter Handke's "My Year in the No-Man's-Bay" and I knew that the view from a window could contain mysterious vistas. And I knew about the visions of Nick Papadimitriou, the interpreter of the London outskirts. Let us listen to their books of revelation:
From the window at which I sit, I see my narrative every morning, see how it should continue in broad strokes. It is a place. I noticed it at the very onset of winter, for the first time in all my years here: a spot in the woods on the hillsides, which since then, as a result of daily observation, has become a place.
Every day, against the background of more distant vistas, I perceived something in the silhouettes of the trees, illuminated by the light from the hollow below, or the sight set me to thinking. Here even on dark, dim days, color predominated. Although nothing was happening, it was a lively scene. Although it was not far off, I saw far into the distance. Not a person to be seen there, and yet the meadow appears as a window on the world. 
And whenever I went up in the forest looking for it, I was never quite sure if this was the place I had fixed my eye on that same morning, from my window, had scrutinized, studied, observed.
And there sits ancient, venerable Turner’s Wood. A pocket of imagined memory backing up against creosoted fences. Turner’s Wood is only approachable as far as huge iron gates along Wildwood Rise. 
Let me be happy to catch glimpses of Turner’s Wood from the Hampstead Garden Suburb: to peer excitedly at her towering silence through gaps between frozen wealth and human achievement. For Turner’s Wood, so viewed, has become emblematic of a certain mythic property. 
You see I don’t want to enter Turner’s Wood, just stand near its edge and gaze into it. I hope I never enter Turner’s wood. Not because I am afraid of wild animals or mantraps but because the very difficulty of entering it has created a particular relationship that I find fruitful.
I like it like this, this preservation of distance. To see the wood from these angles, contrasting it’s methods with those of our civitas, is to enter a portal leading, if not to the eternal, at least to the possibility, the bare imagining of depth. Of a non-localised consciousness hurtling down time, beyond Channel 4, the Guardian, or page 42 of my 1963 edition of the London A to Z. 
Of course it is illusory. Turner’s Wood is no primeval superorganism waiting to carry me off into its timeless simultaneity. Though I rise momentarily into the aesthetic object of its form, still I must return to pay bills and fines or to go to the lavatory.
Peter Handke - "Mein Jahr in der Niemandsbucht" - first three quoted paragraphs *
Peter Handke - "Mein Jahr in der Niemandsbucht"
Middlesex County Council - Turner's Wood - last five quoted paragraphs *
* both texts have been slightly edited to keep them self-supporting outside of their context ...

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