this too
Friday, November 04, 2005
  High and low

Made myself late for work today because I stopped to take photos. (Not to mention nearly falling over backwards in the process, trying to take the very, very top of the tree). Must resist this. Or leave home earlier.

But recording what I see on the journey to and from work may be useful. I find the journey so exhausting and traumatic. Looking at these two photos together - a minute, a few yards, between them - I think one reason for this is the contrasts. The almost endless walls of concrete and walls of noise shutting off space and fresh air and growing things. And the surviving patches of trees and sky and river, of grand and interesting architecture. It’s a struggle to hold these two realities that jostle together so richly and bewilderingly.

Maybe the main reason I find the city increasingly not for me is not so much a craving for beauty as a craving for simplicity.

People forget that when Aristotle opined that human beings are creatures of the polis (i.e. "Man is a political animal"), that the polis was small and the surrounding countryside not yet a devastation. The couple times I've lived in cities for more than a few months, I remember a gray gloom settling in. I've come to think that Aristotle was wrong (as he was about most things), that our need for contact with the natural world is much more important and fundamental than our culturally conditioned impulse to participate in civil society.

If I haven't commented lately, it's not because I haven't been reading, savoring your wonderful writing and feeling moved by the often painful and difficult subject matter.
My spirits soar whenever I'm in the city. Granted, it's quite a little city, compared to London, and it's still dominated by mountains and hills. But I love it all, the noise, the rushing people, the apparitions of striking faces that linger in my memory hours after their owners have bustled off to wherever they're bustling to, the street musicians and jugglers and preachers, the goods for sale from all over the globe, the snatches of conversation in Russian and Hindi and Spanish and Vietnamese.

If the Columbia Gorge weren't forty-five minutes away, I suppose I could come to feel trapped by it, but mostly it just seems magical to me, full of possibilities of glory and tenderness.

You know me. My mind always runs on the bias :-)
I was intrigued by the seeming cleanliness of the tunnel until I discovered the graffito on the right hand wall.

Very metropolitan, I thought.

But then, it might be the equivalent of carving one's initials into a tree in the woods.
I missed the sky when I lived in London, most of the time I could only see a small bit of it.

And, by the way: congratulations on writing Mike's 'post of the week' - over at Troubled Diva - you deserve it!
Thanks Zinnia! I'm somewhat stunned.
Some would say that "simplicity" is not to be found in the city nor in the country, but in oneself. I don't know. I live in a village of 350 and I'm still looking for it.

Recording your journey to work every day - yes - will be of immeasureable value.
I think Tom is right: simplicity and peace are mostly found within ourselves, but I also think it's absolutely true that one's environment can either be condusive or destructive to that. Having lived in the country all my life, I am very bored with it and with the general lack of human animation and creative drive - which is why, like Dale, my spirits lift in the city, despite the grime and anonymity and supposed impersonality. On the other hand, I'd never want to live without respite in the countryside - but I know now that the peace of the countryside resides inside me so deeply that I do carry it with me. I wonder how I will feel if and when I've lived in a city full time for a while.
Hi Jean, I'm visiting after being away from the blogging world for a while! I'm so glad you stopped to take these pics... the second one especially. It blows me away!
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Location: London, UK

Freelance copy-editor and translator. Keen on language, literature, photography, art, music, buddhist meditation and the countryside.

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