closer

Seeing this makes me feel closer, just closer, no matter how far away I may be (or think I am), reminds me of what closeness really is, its beautiful base ingredients and essence. All it takes is a photo from a moment I remember in outline and impression, a moment I can revisit through some appreciably vague, wishful combination of recollection and perfectly reasonable daydream. It’s just a horizon, just an evening, just a sunset, just a place, just a view, just a square of colored pixels, and not just those, not at all.

I look at this and I’m immediately enveloped, taken by a whole host of feelings, perceptions, assumptions, wishes, wrapped up in patchwork elements of my being that have been in some way touched by what I really see here with the mind and heart behind the looking, what I know is there behind the image, mirrored. This sensation has very little to do with the material thing-ness before me. It’s all connotations, free and direct associations, and the best I can do is marvel at their concordance to my memory, imagination, and a present moment so unlike and far removed from the past present so pictured. And so draw these links out, tracing them across the same sky, different now, which then draws me even closer, feeling, remembering bits of myself, bits of then as I go, moved just a few steps outside the lines of time to that place where it just comes together because it is.

What is it exactly that an image of little more than space, distance, expanse, and the otherness of recent memory can make me feel so much closer to, so moved toward? There’s no one there, no distinctive personage or landmark, no event, no specific indication of circumstance or context beyond a sunset over my city—and yet I somehow see everything around it and in it, all the little things I was probably thinking and feeling before that thinking and feeling was arrested by the sight of this, just as now. That’s it, I think. It steps me out, above, and away, my favorite place.

Some part of me is already there—always already as the social scientists like to say. I know exactly how it feels to see that sight, to witness that glorious sunset from precisely that spot, immersed in a moment and thoroughly engaged with its substance, material and immaterial. I’ve been there, in the physical sense, of course, but more than that; I’ve been connected inextricably and almost inexplicably to the witnessing, the mixing of inner and outer, being and seeing—and that’s what I remember. It’s specific and all-encompassing all at once. And each time I see it the sensation is one of proximity, in terms of both space and time, to some familiar but more or less long gone rest of me.

Funny how the mind can work backward from a mass of more or less related appearances, organized around and triggered by a singular, seemingly innocuous image, to the essence of how you experience, showing you things about yourself as though you can’t see them clearly without looking at something else, something else entirely. It’s all transference, reference, and impressionistic immediacy, transportation to the almost-point where internal experience and external reality meet, right on the edge of what feels like being there and remembering the constitutive elements of what being there was and would be like, again, now, close again to what matters, without need of explanation—it is self justifying just like that which really means always is.

This is what the idea, the sensation itself, looks like: Layer upon layer, transparencies and reverberations of opacity held together by a general interconnectedness loosely galvanized in a flash of perception, conscious, deliberate, coincidental, and completely natural. It’s striking and nevertheless as familiar as familiar can be, the memory multiplied and reflected in the moment of remembering all together and all at once, compiled, composed, stunning and congruent.

That’s how it works for me—seeing this sunset scene, I am moved with soothing instantaneity, feeling myself in the midst of an other that has been this. All I have to do is open myself up to the appearances that strike, as they strike, and let them strike what they will. Then it’s just a matter of reflecting them in and through words, because they’re there, in the photo, waiting for the rest of me to write myself in, to pick up where the image left off. Proust had a great deal to say about that. The personality is transformed, becomes mirror-like, reflecting a life no longer lived only for itself, for the individual; and that reflecting power is everything. The scene reflected may be intrinsically beautiful, to be sure, but what really matters is what it does, what it shows, what it means, where it leads—and where you go when you see it.

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