Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Genius of Landscape: Wilderness

Water, air, and rock. The wilderness we know has ocean with waves and currents and tides. Playing on the sand or against rocks, a kind of ever-changing void that stays a void and stays a void. A horizon, a foreground, a verge of sand or swamp. Crashing at seawalls or sucking horizonward as the tide moves, or rolling on it or slurping in it, the ocean as ocean challenges, rivets our attention, threatens, and nourishes.

Rivers in the wilderness course through valleys, on plains, flash through mountains. They create wetlands with willows. They sing or gurgle in a constant changing instant, every molecule of water attached to the next and the next never still. Do the molecules exist? What is their phenomenology? Can a stream of endless invisible particles floating on their linear bed inform? Are they form? What do they form?

Wilderness air moves in a million ways. Eddies around a sudden bolt of lightning, stratospheric streams on the back of cold fronts, or sluggish foggy drippy wafts as the warm weather approaches. Air whistles or whispers or murmurs, a more liquid liquid than water, soft or hard but irrepressible. Unseen but known, never tried. Constant, caressing or not, bearing pressure where none is felt. Atmospheric.

Mountains rise and crash and slither and die along with the rest of the earth's forms. Smoothing and eroding and crumbling and shifting, rocks and earth settle and dance and dust the leaves that rustle and rest or resist. But all this movement is abstract. It happened somewhere else at some other time and to perceive it all in its present is too much for us. Maybe a photo. But do we have to perceive these movements to appreciate them? Are they anything more than glacially slow processes that comprise the "laws of nature" but which don't really affect us? Is their development part of what we call "landscape" or, without human agency can they be considered as landscape? Is the photo and the human perception of that photo enough to make these mute scenes into a landscape?

If the landscape is just a snapshot, a study in the present tense, is it landscape? Development, dynamism, change--all of these contribute to the forming of landscape and landscape is forever forming. Just static is something else. Landscape is alive.

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