The photograph: context: between an electric pylon and some motorway I was following a track, one of many tracks around a tree nursery. Gian was buying saplings for his forest. We already had on board three Leopard trees, (the kind of trees that leopards like to bask in) and an African Mahogany, (a sturdy eight foot pole in a plastic sack, topped with a cluster of leaves,) and couple of other trees who’s names I did not hear, and all of these were laid down flat and very uncomfortable in the bakkie while we had a look around this place, a larger nursery, in which I realized amongst the paths and tracks that I was surrounded by hundreds of unknown, or unnamed trees.
Back to the photograph: But what is that? Lying in my path upon some gravel I came upon this object. What is a word for something that there are no words for? For me my first reaction was that I was in fact looking directly at a word, an Earth word, like a simplified expression of the Earth, or a sound of Earth made manifest, like a cluster of rhythms. And to make a record of this event I took the camera out and got the photograph.
There must be many ways of slowing down on Earth. Something I noticed was how I sought for rhythms, sort of walking into step with them, plying with them: by the waters of the ocean, or by studying a living landscape or a soundscape, such as listening to the interplaying waves of sound from frogs and crickets, like a chorus in the night, or visual rhythms, such as in shapes and forms of beings and relationships between things.
The other day I found a physical book, unearthed it from the shed, a story from a hundred years ago or so, from a time in which the trains had not yet reached the provinces, not that the content of the story greatly mattered, because focused on the writing, I realised that I had found a rhythm in the words and sentences together that supported me in slowing down, where yes in the turning of the paper page, the nature of the substance of the book upon my fingers, all in the slowness of the story, it was as if the writing was actually a place, a place that I was comfortable to be, rather than being in passage or a means towards a point. And so within that place, the turning of the page was part of it, as if I were in a peaceful house, venturing from one room to another, in no hurry to go elsewhere. And also with the book itself, resting now upon the surface of the table, here now in the quieted light of my attention, I rest my hands and I look around me, and quietly move into another moment.
This word Place came up for me in a different context recently: I was in the workshop making a series of timber struts for some shelving units which involved many of the same repeating actions – and after a couple of hours, the thought of ‘taking a break’ became more insistent, and getting to ‘half way through’ started to take shape in my mind as a point in which I could feel justified to stop for a while, and the word Monotonous came up also like the thin end of a wedge, and I started to become distracted, and not in the present with myself any more, and then I made a mistake, and cut right through a strut, because I had lost my concentration, and I had shifted into elsewhere in my mind. It wasn’t that I was tired, it was that I had entertained this word Monotonous, and from that a perception of a lack of entertainment, and from that an experience of boredom, and separation from myself. So anyway, I asked myself if I could just simply do two more, and then two more, and then two more, which I did till it was done. But the realization that I had was, yes, it was like a matter of patience, but more tangible than that, was that I had lost my place, I had been in a place at one with what I was doing, but had yet stepped out of it, and realizing that, it had been easier for me to recreate that place that I had been in just before.