I title this piece of writing with the homophones: seam and seem - words that sound like other words, but the image too appears to have a similarly rhyming element going on. The abandoned child's green chalk has been dissolved by the rain and 'seems' to echo the seam of quartz - struck like lightening through the slate.
Obviously, a few awe-inspiring differences come to mind - such as that of time. The chalk was quickly-made by the child, by the rain, and is fleeting, whereas the quartz, that slid itself slow and liquid and under pressure into a fissure where it crystallised into rock, is ages old and long-lasting. These two are brought together in an instant of noticing.
Water plays its behind-the-scenes part here, in the dissolving and the revealing, in this rock face exposed to the elements of rain, and sea. However, it is apparent that it is not only water at play here, but the place.
This morning I've been reading the nature writing of Barry Lopez. He speaks of indigenous people still practicing the innate human ability of being open, and listening (if you like), to a place, and gathering information from it. He says:
Existential loneliness, and a sense that one's life is inconsequential (hallmarks of modern civilisations), seem to me to derive in part from our abandoning belief in the therapeutic dimensions of a relationship with place ... And every place, to my mind is open to being known ... and somewhere in this process a person begins to sense that they themselves are becoming known... And this reciprocity, to know and be known, reinforces a sense that one is necessary in the world.
What if we practice listening more closely to nature? As artists, and as humans, we are well primed for this. This quartz/chalk encounter has already caught my attention and made me take note, and now I begin to notice more, such as the lightness of touch of the quartz seam itself - a lightness of rock?
How can we attend more readily to such nature parables (and nature koans)?
Lopez suggests we:
- pay attention
- be patient
- and be attentive to what the body knows
"Any observation", he says, "in nature is more than it appears. It is a point of entry into a world... an invitation to participate".
This child was evidently still open to this necessary and fundamental communing with/in nature when she decided to take her chalks out to the beach with her. I am glad she forgot to take the green one away with her.
ps. I have just stumbled upon some words by Nan Shepherd who writes:
So, simply to look on anything, such as a mountain, with the love that penetrates to its essence, is to widen the domain of being in the vastness of non-being. Man has no other reason for his existence.
Nan Shepherd, The Living Mountain
Barry Lopez, The Invitation. Granta magazine: 133