Saturday, February 16, 2008

A Shift In Conciousness.

Parting at Morning.
Round the cape of a sudden came the sea,
And the sun looked over the mountains rim:
And straight was a path of gold for him,
And the need of a world of men for me.
Robert Browning.

My sketch began as a reflection on this poem by Robert Browning but continued down the page quite out of my control. You know how a DVD can suddenly break your belief in the reality of a movie story by reacting to a little dirt and breaking up into little bits of coded information? That`s what happened here: the image at the top of the page broke up into its shorthand bits: normally disguised by little strokes, the image of familiar reality shows its hidden side.

Some years ago, I had this experience without benefit of DVD. I was paddling down the Red Deer River in Alberta on a two week camping trip. It was Fall, all the birds were migrating south, the nights were crisp and the river was low. It was a lovely, evocative time of year.

Because of the low water level, my brother in law Colin and I were able to camp every night on the sand bars, but those same bars filled the river with shallows as well and our progress was impeded by continually having to get out and walk the canoe along until we came to the hidden deep water channel that meandered back and forth beneath the silty water. What I needed was to know which course the channel would take and there were no visual clues. I was an ocean canoeist and I was out of my depth.

A shift in consciousness was called for, and so, finally, I imagined myself to be the river: At first I said to myself,"If I were the river I would start to swing wide on this corner, then start to swing back and prepare for the next reverse curve," then, once I understood the hidden pattern, I found that if I could stop thinking consciously and just sink into it and react instinctively, our journey went smoothly.

This becoming part of the flow had a most fascinating and unexpected side effect. The whole landscape, not just the river, unfolded to show the deeper pattern hidden beneath the surface reality. The sand hill cranes circling in the thermals, the geese traveling in large noisy flocks, the clouds and the wind: all were wrapped in glory and spoke in solemn ringing tones. One could feel that the hidden codes of existence were, like in some Old Testament text, written by skeins of waterfowl on the screen of the sky.

So what does one do with a transcendental experience like that? Those ringing tones continued to reverberate long after the trip was over but talking about it is never all that satisfactory. " Poor guy. Out too long." You can see the unease in their eyes as they edge away from this most recent manifestation of the Ancient Mariner. Well, Its always worth a try, but I realize that the solution to my need to communicate is most productively laid into my visual communication: not as the surface image usually , but in the compositional underlay and flicker of brush strokes. That way perhaps others will experience for themselves that quality of landscape. See it! Feel it! It is dancing!

The transformation of nature in art is rendering nature phenomenon transparent
to transcendence.

Joseph Campbell.

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