Sunday, 21 February 2016

Wild Goose Chase on Cemetery Lake



When you live in a carefully-disordered, random-access chaos, certain objects  particularly sheets of paper  have a way of vanishing for long stretches, then reappearing periodically, like whales coming up for air. They lead a sort of freelance, free-range life in among the more necessary, more coralled stuff. Today, one of these surfaced again.

It's a sheet of A4, on which I have printed these words, in what must be a 48 point type:
The wild geese do not intend to cast their reflection. The water has no mind to receive their image.
I can't now remember why I did this. It's a well-known poem or proverb – anonymous, I think – which Alan Watts and others have often used in their writings about Zen. A teasing sense of revelation flickers about it, like a half-remembered dream.

Whenever this sheet reappears, from between two books, or in among a sheaf of bank statements and electricity bills, it strikes me that these are words that all artists who work "with" the landscape – aligning this with that, echoing one thing with another – should remember. Deceptively simple, they mean so much more than they say.

I also always think, "I should do a blog post about that", and now I have.


8 comments:

Thomas Rink said...

Hi Mike,

this post is very moving and thought-provoking. The more I look at pictures (including, but not limited to, landscapes), the more I feel that one can subdivide them between those that have "soul", and those that haven't. I can't explain what this means. Maybe the "no mind" state is a prerequisite to achieve "soul" in one's pictures, so that a scene is experienced without rational judgement? So that one can feel in one's guts: Now this is a picture! Much similar to the "Haiku moment" ...

Best, Thomas

PS: Ordered Jem Southam's "Landscape Stories" today from amazon.com; 100€ incl. delivery from the US.

Mike C. said...

Thanks, Thomas. Certainly, I have always found that the best state to work in is that blank state of total absorption people call "getting in the zone" -- doesn't always happen, of course, but when it does, it's magic, a natural high. In fact, that is what it's all about -- the pictures are a by-product, really. It's one reason why I prefer to photograph alone...

"Landscape Stories" is a nicely produced "best of", with examples from most of his previous books. It's a Blind Spot book, one of those upscale journals I wish I could afford to subscribe to. Another of my favourite books, "Attracted to Light" by Doug and Mike Starn was produced by Blind Spot, too.

Mike

Thomas Rink said...

Hi Mike,

I totally agree! Sometimes "it" just happens - much more important than "the light".

Best, Thomas

Zouk Delors said...

Perfect pictures, perfect pace ... and a perfect mystery to me how those lines should inform landscape photography, but I'll consider giving it a one-handed clap and await enlightenment.

Mike C. said...

Zouk,

To be perfectly serious, for once, I think the deeper Zen idea is really to do with the nature of the meditative mind, but from a landscape p-o-v there is a lesson there about the relation between the human mind (its intentions and desires, and how we can express and communicate these by using landscape elements in art as metaphors and correlatives) and "nature", which itself lacks any such intentions or desires. There's something profound there about the trap of magical thinking for the artist. But, as I say, it's elusive.

Mike

Zouk Delors said...

Thank you, sensei.

Btw:

Text: Haiku by Zenrin Kushu. Nancy Wilson Ross, The World of Zen: An East-West Anthology. Vintage Books, New York, 1960.
http://theanalyticpoem.net/concept-map/1-dimension/schrodingers_cat-copy/

Mike C. said...

Think nothing of it, grasshopper. Your diligence does you credit. But you must still sweep the meditation floor.

Zouk Delors said...

Yes, master. And as I do, I must be mindful that the dust does not intend to settle and the floor has no mind to deplore its presence.