Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Shadows of a Former Self

Late autumn brings out the melancholic and introspective in me. Shadows of former selves proliferate as the garden daily retreats in preparation for winter hibernation.

I happened upon this image seared onto my deck--one of many--and was thrust into retrospection. Weeks earlier rustling in the breeze, the leaf is now a mere image, an imprint, an outline. Form outlasts substance; form becomes substance. Not a residual effect of an existence now past, the form now offers itself as primary existence, just as the forms of the garden--its architecture--are increasingly revealed to us as foliage withers and disintegrates.

I am propelled backwards in time, and compare, perhaps morbidly so, my image to other (in)famous images of substances being seared into time and reduced to one-dimensionality: photos of lost human beings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Moving backwards further still, I think of the photograph itself which also reduces substance to surface matter, though, unlike the outline of the leaf and the image of a shadow of a self burned onto a concrete surface, the photograph still permits a sense of tri-dimensionality by visually evoking, and even capturing, depth and girth.

And so it is with my reading: propelled backwards. I purchased Robin Lane Fox's Thoughtful Gardening, and upon devouring the introduction, I instinctively turned not to the first page, "Winter," but to page 255, "Autumn," the beginning of the fourth and last section of the book. We are enmeshed in autumn, and it seems a sacrilege to acknowledge any other season.

But as we know, this too shall pass, and soon the moribund browns of late autumn will be covered with mounds of snow, which will give way to the animate muddiness that is early spring, and the buds and seemingly miraculous appearances of all things alive and green and gold. And substance will once again supplant form as the dominant sensual experience of the world.

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