online: 27 april 2003

16 april 2003 at the edge of reality

18:16 Sitting under a beech tree at the edge of a pond.

Traffic noise, people running along a path on the other side of the water... close to me are water plants and several coots and ducks... a woman waits while a small boy gazes at some of the ducks ... I look up and see the cloudless sky through branches of the beech tree as yet without leaves - beech must be one of the last trees to open in spring...

A coot walks cautiously down a steep slope to the water and then walks more quickly up again... something under the water is causing rings of ripples to spread outward - I can't see any fish, can it be marsh gas rising from the mud beneath?...

...I notice that the water surface is reflecting a shimmering picture of the trees opposite that is as commonplace as it is indescribable, it's more complex than are most artworks and, in ways I can't explain, it is more fascinating than is any photograph or even film - perhaps because it is not an abstraction or a record but is reality itself - that which is, or appears to be, outside one... which case what is this account of the shimmering tree picture, and of the pond, the water birds, etc.?

I pause to think.

All I can say is that I like this reality better than most... I like its otherness as well as its beauty, its unbounded fascination, I like the ground, the water, the trees, the birds, the sky, and I like to name these things, and I like the words - to list them is almost poetry*...

I see a small boy walking slowly through a swamp as if it is an unfamiliar experience for him - I remember the suction and the squelching, the difficulty of staying upright... but I see that it is eight o'clock and I decide to go.

On my way back I saw a woman photographing a girl who was leaning against a tree. The woman asked the girl to put one foot on the tree trunk so as to raise one knee (perhaps to make it more posed, like a fashion photograph). That wish, to add conscious meaning and 'interest' to nature as it is, is something one has to unlearn if one is to perceive what is before one. It has nothing to do with the reality of that image of trees reflected in the surface of the water.

*I was thinking of some words by Gertrude Stein:
...poetry is created by naming names the names of something the names of somebody the names of anything. Nouns are the names of things and so nouns are the basis of poetry.

Gertrude Stein, in her essay Poetry and Grammar, in look at me now and here I am, writings and lectures 1911-1945 by Gertrude Stein, edited by Patricia Meyerowitz, introduction by Elizabeth Sprigge, Peter Owen, London 1967, page 137. There is a later edition published by Penguin Books - but perhaps with different page numbers.

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© 2003 john chris jones

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