How quickly and easily my perspective can change. One moment things feel vaguely ordered and my eye can wonder over surfaces and observe spacious beauty in a higgledy pigeldy collection of paraphernalia. Stuff appears aesthetically pleasing; a collection of my daughters drawings and paintings accumulated on a mantlepiece, books interspersed with items which randomly found their home on a small ledge at the edge of a shelf. Spaces evolve. Things can be placed with purpose and an eye for how they might appear now or later. To an imagined viewer. I don’t feel comfortable though – placing things. I crave organic processes where items find a home gradually, in their own time – while spaces evolve around them. To place an item with purpose feels too self conscious and to do so to please my eye feels? – well… awkward.
I sit at the garden table littered with autumnal debris. Both beauty and mess. Is this Wabi Sabi? How can we hold in mind the conditions that spontaneously arise in which beauty can create itself as a possibility, I’m wondering. Helicoptering sycamore seeds. Two cats playing with the breeze. Drinking water from an abandoned plant pot. Ossified elderberries stain a white surface. Onions. Above ground their leaves distinct amidst the weeds and a reminder of the beginnings of lockdown and an attempt with my daughter to grow food. Are there actual onions in that ground? As I peer at the leaves, I want to ask them, How will I even know when you’re ready?
Tomato plants laden with fruit that will soon rot if not picked. I can’t get to grips with why they are still hanging there. Is it because no-one wants to eat them? I don’t know why that is – I’m puzzled. Half hearted plans? No commitment to follow through. Perhaps it was just a ‘nice idea’? There is no urgency to bring it to fruition? I find myself taking a deep breath and in comes the realisation that if I don’t keep up the momentum with these projects – it all stops. Arrested development.
I look around at the dishevelled garden. A wet screwed up j cloth discarded on the decking. A piece of plastic and remnants of tinsel hiding in the corners among the dead bay leaves. A half used packet of aspirin that fell out of a pocket when I was hanging out washing – a week ago. They might end up there all winter. A pink painted caned chair – with golf tees holding an unfinished seat in place. An art object? It used to hang on the wall – in the bedroom. I took it down for some reason, thickly covered in dust, and it found its way into the shed and now has new residency here next to the soon to be rotting tomatoes.
What’s that word that describes how everything tends towards chaos? Something like torpor. Things and people; disorder and chaos, dying and rotting. Even if they are given attention and love. It’s not enough to halt the movement towards an inevitable end. An illusion of beauty cannot be sustained. It’s too much effort. Renewing and revisiting and moving things, people and perspectives through. Endlessly. Round and round in circles. Imminent activity. And then nothing.
Entropy! that’s the word I am looking for.
Dead heads on sunflowers and their snail eaten, mottled leaves. Plants in pots sitting in water that will soon rot their roots if not emptied. Will I empty them? … It’s another job which I could start, but there will always be more to bring back some semblance of order. The garden is a no go zone in the winter and the decking becomes a slimy ice rink. A death trap! My dad told me once that I could sprinkle something on it that would put the sliminess into abbeyance: a soap powder from the £1 shop. Can I be bothered?
Without the warmth and the sun a rusting table is just that: a rusted dirty object that should rightfully be on route to the dump. It’s all a matter of perspective. A month ago it was a weathered, slightly rustic, French looking delight. A surface on which to place round stones collected on my daily walks along the beach. Sitting between tumbling lavender and a flowering geranium rescued from the roadside and restored to a colourful life – this is indeed wabi sabi isn’t it?
People can be like this. I find myself disliking groups and dinner parties in particular. When a few of them i.e. people are gathered together – It can feel, too quickly, like a race to the lowest common denominator. Conversation becomes mundane, and things are said to fill the silence. Mediocrity! Not communication. There is no contact being made here. No intimacy. What was that thing that mike said ? It was like ‘A nothing will do as well as a something about which nothing can be said’. I take that to mean – if you haven’t got something interesting to say – don’t say anything.
One day there will be a tax on words. Or we’ll be allocated a finite number per day and then we’ll use them sparingly and be clearer in our intentions. Until that time words will always be clogging up the airspace.
When did we start ‘curating’ our lives and friends? When did waiting lists become wait lists. When did starting a sentence with… So – become a thing? and when did I become a cliche? How did this ‘new normal’ slip in under the radar undetected and take up residence proudly like it owned the place, and had always been there. Imperceptible changes and shifts in all of our perspectives are profoundly shaping how we experience the world right now. How can we stay aware enough to feel like we have a choice about what we take in. To notice and pause – before automatically digesting whatever shit is dolled out. Indeed, who’s even in charge of the dolling these days?
How does one stay on the edge and retain a sense of observing – is that even desirable? and where even is the edge. The edge keeps getting consumed into the middle. The edges are mainstreamed and repackaged as ‘edgy’ and sold back to us at twice the price. Postmodern pastiching. Everything reduced to a reworking and collaging of something that went before.
I am reminded of an essay I wrote a long time ago about Grunge, a fashion movement that crawled up from the underground in the 90’s. A radical statement against consumer society or a flight into nostalgia to momentarily escape from the present – I had asked? Grunge had started as both a music and fashion scene in Seattle in the late 1980’s among young people. “What may have started out with the potential to parody and distort” – I concluded in my essay – “quickly lost its potential for inversion and subversion as it became cleaned up for the mainstream. Adopted by Haute couture designers and then pushed out as an easily digestible, marketable look and therefore another form of consumerism”. I bloody loved postmodernism, “gazing forever at our suspended moment of flight”…But now it’s all so passé ! I wonder what came after it?
Where is my edge now ? Do I even have one. Well, my body has to end somewhere and another one begins. I don’t want to blend in and that’s why I can’t bare groups. Groups include and I don’t want incorporation. But I do want connection and belonging. Another eureka moment…I want to experience the edge of life as that is where creative connect is – and where the interesting conversation is made. This is where the possibility for occupying a critical stance grows. The place from which to reflect and wonder. Perhaps to resist and disobey? I want to find my way back to the edge and with any luck you’ll meet me there. Yes I like that – cheers to the pink chair, the onions, rotting tomatoes and the damp j cloth and the discarded half empty aspirin packet. Time for coffee.