Landscapes of the Mind

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Our landscapes are formed not only of soil and rock but through the eye of the beholder if you will. For example where I might see a lush structure rooted in the moist soil, it’s plentiful arms reaching towards the sky as if in sacred worship, clothed in a russet silk gown, dancing in the wind as a trail of color carpets the ground.

But the person standing next to me might consider this very same tree an obstruction to his view? It’s absolutely looney (five of you will get this comment).

A diversity of vision so to speak, no right, no wrong, no judgement here.

So in a sense we co-create that which we see, we participate in the unveiling of our world, simply by the depth in which we honor our visual talents. Take another look, what do you really see, how does the landscape speak directly to you? On some level I believe we encounter that which we need, or at the very least we have the opportunity to engage with that which will benefit us most, even if the circumstance brings forth pain and suffering. Think of Jesus…tis the season.

Our world is alive, more woke (to use a millennial term) in many ways than humans, as “we walk on this thin crust above this raging space of life and matter in all its vibrancy and fury, and we know nothing of it,” says Robert MacFarlane. What if we started engaging with our landscape as if she were a beloved spouse? I know this idea might make you shake your head, I can almost see the scowl forming on your brow, and all you want to do is hit the exit button, but stay with me this could be a diamond in the rough. Or simply coal? You never know, I might crush it!

Time seems to shift for me when I’m in nature, or creating something with words, as if I entered a deep sleep, submerged if you will. I remember doing this in the pool when I was little, pretending I was a mermaid, completely surrounded by water, holding my breath until my tiny lungs could bear no more, and I had to surface from my enchanting world. My Mom would literally pluck my water logged body out of the water because I had lost all sense of time, and I’m pretty sure I would still be there in some form or another, if she had not rescued me?

When ever we find a root and follow it back we will think we reached it end but it will branch off and surprise us. Robert Macfarlane.

When I woke this morning and made my way to the living room I noticed the lake was completely hidden by a bank of fog, the density so thick my eyes could not penetrate. The sun had already cleared the horizon, and for some reason the world presented itself in layers of light, brume, and murky darkness as if the stratums of heaven, life, and hell were perfectly portrayed on this sentient canvas.

I find it intriguing how theses realms are close enough as to touch, but clearly delineated, I felt my breadth and width expand, my mind easing into a luxurious stretch, as waves of thought escape the barriers of my body. I really need more coffee don’t you think? As I stood there, a curious thing happened, the fog began to lift, as if a curtain had been pulled away, and that tiny revelation took my breath away.

Perhaps the truth depends on a walk around the lake, walking is not the action by which one arrives at knowledge; it is itself the means of knowing.” Robert Macfarlane

Living by the lush landscapes of Clearlake, if only on the weekends, is enormously sustaining for me. The landscape has driven deep grooves into my psyche (a Robert Macfarlaneism) and I am forever entangled in her unique wisdom. I find it interesting that the places where my eyes rest have a significant impact on my well being. As Robert Macfarlane notes (and I’m paraphrasing), the things which we focus our eyes on opens the chambers of our heart, with spaces that are warm, valves that open and close, and most strikingly the darkness. The landscape doesn’t just surround me it becomes me.

Nothing gives you more joy than when your heart grows wider and wider and your sense of belonging to the universe grows deeper and deeper claims Br. David Steindl-Rast. This lake makes me, she elevates my thoughts, drags me again and again to my computer in attempt to capture this intangible love affair, but words defy the depth of our relationship. She expands my range of thought, and when I think of this in human terms, this is probably the most beautiful thing we can do for each other.

“We tend to think of landscapes as affecting us most strongly when we are in them or on them, when they offer us the primary sensations of touch and sight. But there are also the landscapes we bear with us in absentia, those places that live on in memory long after they have withdrawn in actuality, and such places — retreated to most often when we are most remote from them — are among the most important landscapes we possess.” Robert Macfarlane

When I consider this thought it forces me to return, or look if you will, at that which I allow into my view. This includes the things I watch on television, the people I associate with, and that which I read, because these are the things I carry with me, landscapes of the mind if you will. Jim Rohm coined the phrase “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” This thought makes the claim that people shape you in ways so subtle you might not notice. These select few determine not only the conversations you will have, but the philosophy, and attitudes one uses to encounter life. I agree, this diamond is still rough, keep reading, you have .4 paragraphs to go.

I’ve come to believe the places in which you dwell have an even more profound effect on not only your view of life, but your sense of belonging, and connection. People who live in places where the landscape is largely cement, with uninspired architecture, and little or no green space suffer a deep disconnection with that which is most potent to our well being. These communities often grapple with high levels of stress, mental fatigue, social isolation, and as you would expect obesity rates are staggering.

Robert Macfarlane poses two questions we should ask of any strong landscape:

  1. What do I know when I am in this place that I can know nowhere else?
  2. What does this place know of me that I cannot know of myself?

These infamous words from Psalm 23 seem imbued with new meaning…to not want, to lie down on her warm beaches, to be drawn beside still waters, she restores my soul, to discover the well worn path of good intentions, to dive in, defying the shadow of death, but fearing no evil, for this land has made deep groves in my soul, to find comfort, to resurface, she has provided a place beneath her heavy branches, she shades me, the morning dew anoints my head, my cup runneth over, surely goodness and mercy shall be my companions all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the beauty of nature for ever and ever. (Psalm 23 adapted)

What is your current view, I’m talking about the view just beyond the device with which you are reading, the landscape that you co-create, or carry with you, and why we’re at it – who do you plan on mingling with toady? Being in nature not only reduces anger and fear, but increases our tranquility, our sense of calm, the ability to experience serenity. This happens because our blood pressure decreases, along with our heart rate, muscle tension, and stress levels. Booyah!

Look deeper, think broader, allow your imagination full reign, because these are the things that influence our ability to perceive that which is imperceptible, sacred, consecrated if you will, that which is efficacious to our lives in ways we are only beginning to understand.

I’m Living in the Gap, drop by anytime, you can help me wrap up my thoughts!

Anecdotes:

  • “Paths are the habits of a landscape. They are acts of consensual making. It’s hard to create a footpath on your own…Paths connect. This is their first duty and their chief reason for being. They relate places in a literal sense, and by extension they relate people. Paths are consensual, too, because without common care and common practice they disappear: overgrown by vegetation, ploughed up or built over (through they may persist in the memorious substance of land law). Like sea channels that require regular dredging to stay open, paths NEED walking.” Robert MacFarlane
  • “I looked around at the rooms that I did not see as rooms but more as a landscape for my emotions, a biography of memory.” Anne Spollen
  • “The star-patterns, the grandiose slosh of the Milky Way. Jupiter, blazing low to the east, so brightly that it laid a lustrous track across the water, inviting us to step out onto its swaying surface. The moon, low, a waxing half, richly colored – a red butter moon, setting down its own path on the water. The sea was full of luminescent plankton, so behind us purled our wake, a phosphorescent line of green and yellow bees, as if the hull were setting a hive swarm beneath us. We were at the convergence of many paths of light, which flexed and moved with us as we headed north.” Robert Macfarlane

 

 

 

 

17 Comments

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  1. There’s something about nature that cleanses our eyes and allows us to see everything much clearer. I need to increase my nature time so that I can have better sight! Thanks for the reminder!

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    1. I agree Sandra, nature “cleaned ones eyes!” I write about topics I want to understand more about myself, check out Robert Macfarlane’s work if you have some time! He’s such an inspiration! Thanks so much for the comment!

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  2. Enjoyed reading this post. I love nature and find it incredibly soothing. I enjoy spending time outdoors and just taking in some fresh air. Too many people miss out living “in places where the landscape is largely cement.” You’ve given me food for thought. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Ana, I was inspired by Robert Macfarlane’s work, he embraces such beautiful language when describing our natural world, he forced me to think again about what I seeing and feeling when outside! He’s written some incredible books about his experience of walking this earth. Thanks for your thoughtful comment!

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  3. I really enjoyed this, so thought provoking. Your description of the tree right at the beginning will really stay with me. I too feel differently when I’m surrounded by nature, I notice a change in myself, both physically and mentally, and it’s an apt reminder that humans are animals (we just like to pretend we aren’t) and the way for us to floruish is to embrace the rich environment we were meant for.

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    1. What a lovely comment, I appreciate your thoughtfulness. I’ve always noted the calmness that comes over me when I’m in nature but as I was listening to Robert Macfarlane talk about the world in which we live I was inspired to take a deeper look. What a gift! Thanks again for stopping by Living in the Gap!

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  4. You talked about a “sense of belonging to the universe” and I was just thinking about that yesterday, driving home from a lunch with my book group. The book we read was by a Nigerian author and it had made me realize (again) that I am a global citizen. Reading that book, I felt closer to my human family all around the world. And then I thought, it’s not just people, everything in this world is part of my family, other animals, not just humans. And reading your post, I thought, and not just sentient beings but trees! And water! And the universe! So thank you for another insightful post full of your unique wisdom. xox

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    1. Hi Cynthia! I’ve been traveling about the world catching up with my adventurous children! Talk about global citizen, I’m living vicariously through my children. So finally today I’m reading your comment and basking in your thoughtful insights! I appreciate your ideas enormously and couldn’t agree more, we have roots that connect to much more than the usual suspects. I believe if a tree were to become the primary character in a novel it would bear fruit! Thanks for the comment! Merry Christmas Cynthia.

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  5. Hi! Really enjoyed this beautiful post. You painted such a serene, lush image. Makes me want to get back outside and fully experience nature (actually makes me want to fly out to California and either go to Yosemite, the PCT or the Devil’s Punchbowl.)
    Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving.
    PS. Does Looney really want to take down a beautiful tree?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Mike, happy belated Thanksgiving! It’s been a busy few weeks and I’m inordinately behind on EVERYTHING! So glad you enjoyed the splashing of a “landscape moment” all over my blog, I couldn’t help myself. It was a mutinous indulgence when not only words, but the damn trees, nature, and coffee converge. I was at their mercy and ever so grateful someone actually read the post! And yes! Jim and Larry conspired to “trim” my tree because her beautiful limbs were blocking their view, unbelievable, and let me just say they are not tree beauticians, she looks hacked! You’ll see on your next visit! Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah! Miss you guys!

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