Camera Obscura

Schiele's Autumn Trees

Pardon me while I unfurl two weeks' worth of collected thoughts.

I spent this afternoon in the park, walking from the Met up to the 110th street barrier. It's much quieter in the north end of the park. The runners are still out and there are certainly groups of people wandering, but nothing at all like the procession of faces further down. I found myself atop a rocky hill, actually hearing the few remaining leaves rustle as little birds danced about in the bushes and the wind continued on its way. I sat for a while above the Conservatory Gardens, high up on the hill, and closed my eyes.

I need that sort of quiet, to feel something else sweep by me, to feel the sensation of expanding outward and diffusing a little. The paradox is that once I lose myself a little, relax my grip on the now, everything sharpens and my mind starts to move again. I wonder if this is the feeling that accompanies meditation (which I am rarely successful at). After recharging a little and feeling my senses sharpen and become more responsive, I hurried down the hills to the almost bare garden.

I had never been there before and felt, much like I had at Fort Tryon Park, a sense of astonishment that there weren't more people here. It was beautiful in its cold, grey austerity. There were some tenacious, bright flowers still blooming, but the majority of the garden had settled into its winter garb: dark, snaking boughs, heavy green foliage, and a plethora of seeds. There were grass seeds, the fuzzy-feathered tufts meant to be carried by gusts, there were hard shells, opened up into hollow chambers from which seeds had been plucked by birds, and there were my favorites, the wisteria pods. These, if you are not familiar with them, have a velvety case and an elongated shape. They hang straight down from the twisted grey vines of the wisteria plant, alongside the remaining leaves which, at this time of the year, turn a brilliant yellow color. The effect was spectacular, especially with the late afternoon sun lending a fuzzy aura to each dangling seed case.

Schiele's Fuschias


There are cats in these gardens as well, at least that's what one of the caretakers told me as he placed a fresh tin of cat food beneath a hedge of yew.

Wandering as I did this afternoon brought something into clear focus for me; I wrote a little (finally) on Murakami last night. And in doing so, I found the following passage and realized the true effect that this book had on me.

Murakami is trying to show what it means to lose the physical; he does this by a variety of methods (important, as the way one loses the physical is accomplished in a variety of ways), two of which are through graphic descriptions of sexual and violent encounters. And while I'm normally not very good with either sort of graphic descriptions, his had the effect of making me very aware of the physical, and of how unaware, or numb, I had been before the scene.

So in a sense, he plays with the reader, lulling with a myriad of stories from incredible characters, and a twisty, fantastic plot, and then throwing these passages which are like those firecrackers that explode and leave a film of color spiderwebbing across your eyes.

All the while, he is writing about the necessity of detachment. In order for Toru to find his cat and then Kumiku, he must step outside of himself, outside of the action of his life, and peer closely at the workings of it, the wind-up mechanics of fate and action. Toru does this by climbing down into the well and shutting himself off from all distraction. He brings everything to focus on himself, on the sensation which, with nothing else to engage him, becomes overwheming. The feel of a soggy shoe, or of a scrape on the cheek, the smell of earth and his own body--these become his world. He places himself in a context where the boundary between "reality" and [what to call the opposition? illusion/ truth/ magic?], where that boundary fuzzes out until it can be permeated.

Another character describes a different method, something I think I'm more familiar with. Where Toru's method of separating from the physical can be seen as a concentration of sensation until the sheer pressure of sensation causes the mind to pull itself back from the physical, the Lieutenant's description is of the diffusion of the mind until the physical no longer feels so close:

Sometimes, when one is moving silently through such an utterly desolate landscape, an overwhelming hallucination can make one feel that oneself, an individual human being, is slowly coming unraveled. The surrounding space is so vast that it becomes increasingly difficult to keep a balanced grip on one's own being. The mind swells out to fill the entire landscape, becoming so diffuse in the process that one loses the ability to keep it fastened to the
physical self. That is what I experienced in the midst of Mongolian steppe. How vast it was! It felt more like an ocean than a desert landscape. The sun would rise from the eastern horizon, cut its way across the empty sky, and sink below the western horizon. This was the only perceptible change in our surroundings. And in the movement of the sun, I felt something I hardly know how to name: some huge, cosmic love.

It's a wonderful thing to be able to separate from the physical. Its the path to a greater, richer sense of the physical.

And I'm stopping here, I have quite a few things wanted to speak about but they'll have to wait.