Mathius Goeritz wrote, "There is no escape from The Landscape...The word itself signifies our human need to give the chaotic outside of ourselves sense, a shape, an order, a world within worlds..."
The concept of The Landscape as understood in painting, music, poetry, physics, and spirituality, is very interesting to me. Also, what role does Landscape play in our day to day interactions with our "surroundings"? I became inspired to write this essay when my daughter called me recently from the exquisite botanical flower garden at Duke University in Raleigh-Durham. She began by telling me that she was looking at the most spectacular landscape she had ever seen. In no uncertain terms she described in full detail exactly what the softly billowing cherry blossom petals felt like when they blanketed the top of her head. She told me about the wet, sap green lawns, and the drooping branches of pink rhododendron thick with spring flowers. She told me about the whispers within the tiny edelweiss, and the bridges of tangled columbine that only the fairies may cross. She described the rhythmic songs of the frogs and birds, (some frogs living in the trees, some birds living on the ground). She told me about the massive display of multicolored tulips, crocus , hyacinth, daffodils that spread every where, in every direction. She closed her descriptive gift with a close up view of a certain oval shaped flower bed that shimmered before her. "The tulips are blood red and all packed together on one side, and the daffodils are the size of your hand, are snow white, and all packed together on the other side of the bed".
In that moment she, (and I in my mind's eye) were experiencing the perfect, enclosed, magical, Hermetic garden. Delightful Landscape, I thought, and I blissfully thanked her for her gift. We had a bit more conversation, said our goodbyes, and I settled back to close my eyes and meditate on the Landscape in all its manifestations.
I pictured my daughter standing in the center of a meticulously kept garden. I thought about the landscape that exists just a few hundred yards in any direction from where she stood. Surrounding Duke's botanical wonder is a toxic, urban metropolis built on slave labor and cigarettes. ( Today the Durham landscape thrives on drug centered medical research). I thought about the landscape as it reached further out, changed, merged, and flowed between farmlands, countryside, and cities. Then I inverted my thoughts about the layers of landscapes. I pictured the view the honey bee has while deep within a blossom. I thought about the worm's view as it slides slowly over the wet dirt. I tried to see what a bacteria or a slime mold might see, and thought about The Landscape from a molecular aspect. Layers upon layers of Landscape in every direction.
The concept of multiple Landscapes, or layers of describable existences is well know to lucid dreamers, psychics, physicists, anyone with luminous insight. The concept is also well known behind the walls of the elite castle- like structure of Duke. The highest technologies lay within the labyrinth of that great institution. Technologies that reveal secrets of flora and fauna far beyond the velvety soft petals, and sweet, gentle aromas. I wondered if scientists have discovered aromas at the molecular level. I thought more about layers of Landscapes, viewed from many perspectives. I pondered the Landscape of dreamspace, and the Landscape of parallel realities, and about how my thoughts create my surroundings in any given moment. Then I thought about the Landscape on my computer screensaver.
Why does a Landscape have to exist? Why does a "stage set" always have to be in place? Goeritz felt the answer is that the concept of Landscape can stabilize "what is" into something that can be described with words, which then creates the illusion we call reality.
My daughter's disclosure of her day in the Hermetic botanical gardens, surrounded by stone enclosures, reminds me of an essay written by Herman Hesse in 1947 called Description of a Landscape. In the story Hesse is a guest, for a lengthy stay, at an old feudal manor complex. The main houses have been recently renovated and turned into medical facilities of some sort. The surrounding smaller houses are guest residences that are enclosed within, and surrounded by, a series of ancient botanical gardens. His Landscape description begins with a close encounter with the massive oak burls, then pans out quickly, so the reader gets an idea of the 3D human Landscape experience from garden, to farmland, to countryside, to metropolis, and on into the cosmos. Hesse ends his essay feeling great sadness and hopelessness at ever finding that "place" where the human emotions do not
dictate the experience of that "place".
Many painters and musicians have produced great works that are all about the Landscape. From William Turners epic rocky overgrown cliffs and valleys, to Hiroshige's minimalist woodcuts that contain miles of space; from Beethoven's well know 'Pastoral' Symphony, to Phillip Glass' austere, minimalist piece 'Canyon', humans seem to never run out of emotionally charged descriptions of their surroundings. Out of all the fine arts, literature and poetry are, in my opinion, the medium of choice for any descriptive work, especially in art work concerning Landscapes. With words I can describe a sound that cannot be heard by human ears, with words I can describe a color that cannot be detected by human eyes. Writing is the ultimate springboard into the Holographic experience, and this is why. The Landscape in Quantum terms is usually expressed through a language of light fields, vibratory resonances, and mathematical equations. If light fields could be thought of as a medium for quantum painting, and resonating waves are a medium for quantum music, how does the written word inhabit the quantum world? Language is the art of combining small mouth noises, and representing these noises with lines and shapes. These arrangements are literally programs for virtual hard drives(brains). Anyone can see this by looking at a group of Hebrew letters. These lines and dots are carefully designed programs that produce experiences of The Landscape. Those humans who are fortunate enough to be both poets AND multilingual, these beings have the Keys to the Kingdom. The great potential for the awareness of timeless existence.
The Invisible Landscape is that luminous place inhabited by many types of elemental beings, and the dearly departed. Those trained in psychic and spiritual arts are able to dissolve the veils that separate the layers of Landscapes. These people are aware of how thoughts create censors, like guards at the borders of Landscapes, dictating what is to be believed as real and what is not.
When one discovers the potential of awareness of the virtual Landscape, and applies physical breath practices, the secret of the illusion of time is revealed. At every moment we have a Landscape that surrounds us. A "Place". Our thoughts fill that place. The Landscape around us changes with every heartbeat, every breath.
At the end of Hesse's descriptive essay he is frightened and sobered at the vast expanse of cosmos that seems to have been "landscaped" itself by a ruthless strip of razor sharp white mountains that slice across the endless expanse of ice, cold blue. He is sober and somber, but declares that he has never once felt humiliated by Nature, just reminded to pay attention to his "surroundings".
One of the most sobering Landscapes I have ever experienced I am sharing with you today in the form of a painting. One night I was stargazing at a patch of sky above a cow field. I was peering up between two pinions not far apart. Suddenly the sky split and a luminous mass of color in pixels was exposed. Let me be clear, nothing "appeared and hovered", no, what was shone to me was something BEHIND the layer of black night sky.
Are these layers of Landscape just pixels of colored lights that we decode only as extensively and thoroughly as our censors allow us to? Are we learning that this reality we live is just one decoding of billions of possibilities? Today I will "landscape" my little side yard flower garden, and meditate on it all more.