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walk right | walk left

If there's one thing I'm really going to miss about living in this house, as odd as it sounds, I think it's the view from the front windows; or even better still, from the front doorstep, where the snug familiarity of Inside and the bracing realness of Outside meld, and where sitting on the doorstep with your legs dangling over the threshold puts you at an angle to the world that makes you feel five years old again. It's nothing spectacular in itself, but for me it's one of the few views that, upon regarding it, can consistently and reliably bring to memory the Garden.

The Garden is something -- a place -- a state -- I've undoubtedly mentioned here before, but I'm fairly sure I've never really described. It eludes description, at least mine, at least for now, since it eludes attempts to contemplate it for any extended period of time as easily as - clichéd though the analogy - grains of sand elude the grip. The Garden is, upon reflection, like Tao; where you have understood it, where you have described it, where you have pinned it down, there it is not. It's a garden, yes, nominally, though it's also a lot more, and something other; its defining quality is not its gardenness, but something more transcendent - as wanky as that word sounds, it's the only appropriate one that comes to mind, because the Garden is fundamentally "about" something more than its physical qualities (if indeed it actually has any physical qualities, beyond the ones my mind impresses onto it; but then, that's what physical qualities are, I suppose, your mind's translation of the world around you into soul-readable code). But, in a flailing act of futility, I'm going to try. You're very unlikely to get even a glimmer of understanding into what the Garden is by my attempts, but I can try.

One of the main things - indeed, about the only thing I can put into words - that defines the Garden in a physical sense is not what it is (even that's a very nebulous thing), but where it is. The Garden is soaring, height above and below; the Garden is what you see when you gaze into the near-infinity of a clear blue sky, with the sensation of land and depth and still more empty air below you. The Garden is like standing on a plateau, overlooking a deep valley, with a vastness of sky above you, a vastness of world before you. The Garden is like standing on the edge of the world, knowing all that is behind you is the world, and feeling safe and powerful and glorious in your position (top o' the world, ma! Hmm, maybe whoever came up with that quote was onto something....); yet at the same time acknowledging that all that is before you is new and unexplored and poorly understood, that behind you lies your kingdom and before you lie uncharted realms, and you're poised between the two, physically, literally, with a breathtaking understanding of what it is to be alive. The Garden is sheer joy and terror, the thirst for adventure and the fear of it, the security of knowledge and the trepidation of leaving your sphere of understanding.

It's also something else, but that's a very specific qualia-feeling, impossible to put into words. And possibly it's far more than this; possibly the Garden itself is not about being poised between two worlds, but my emotions and memories regarding it relate to leaving it, to being poised on the edge of the Garden itself, on the boundary between it and the rest of existence. I'm considering tentatively that the Garden might have something to do with the transition between lives; might relate to that no-place and all-place where we go when we die, and from which we come when we live again.

As for how it looks and feels, the feel of the Garden is best captured, in my experience, by those authors and, odd though it sounds, particularly video game creators who possessed a sense of what it was to live in a world iconified by the phrase "clearest of blue skies". Anyone remember the old Super Mario World commercials, the ones that attempted to capture the then-phenomenal transition from 8- to 16-bit graphics? "The sun's a little bit brighter... the trees a little bit greener...", or whatever it was. Like that. It's not technicolour, nor is it entirely free from hardship, though it isn't, I get the feeling, as immediate, as scathing a concern there; it's if anything imbued almost with a sense of wistfulness (though that again may be my memories, since I'm assuming that at some point I had to leave), but if not an idealised world, it's a more idealised world, more iconic, more archetypal. I've come to the realisation that the reason Neil Gaiman's Stardust triggered my awakening was probably not that my nature has much to do with Faerie, but that the world of Faerie as he portrays it reminds me of the Garden, and the Garden is somehow integrally connected to me. Then again, possibly the Garden is Faerie, in some aspect; but if it is then it's a more Seelie and at once more "elven" kind of Faerie, refined and compassionate and with some of the trappings of regality, but also very nature- rather than ornamentation-centred, a place where the most breathtaking sights were the natural ones, the flowers (which were many, and beautifully coloured) and the skies, rather than any manmade pomp and circumstance. And it doesn't feel like "a" world, the world of the elves or the fae amongst a myriad of others; it feels like the world, the starting point, the mother land. Everything comes from the Garden, and everything returns to it. It's a giant unfolding, and enfolding into, like the petals of a flower at daybreak, at sunset. (The changing colours of the skies and sun are closely tied into my imagery of the Garden, too; watching the sun set often brings it to mind, though it depends on where I am in the world.) It's a little bit dreamlike, a little bit too definitive to be "real"; it's the ur-world, an existence so "existencey" it crosses the boundary into the surreal, like a painting that's a little too detailed, a memory that's a little too intact.

The Garden is... majestic, in a natural, though also slightly polished-from-the-natural way. All who live there, I think, are "noble" (omg elven princess syndrome. XP Hey, I'm not saying I belonged there, I'm just saying I know of it. If it is an afterlife, possibly this is an indicator that death is the great leveller of men in a way in which people don't usually interpret the phrase; an eradicator of poverty and suffering, of disease and pestilence, of the inability to influence the world around you), clean and seemingly content; people go about their business with a genuine enthusiasm for life. The only people I remember seeing, and this is only a vague recollection, are children; maybe everyone's eternally young in death, as well. It's a little like Zeal from Chrono Trigger, atmospherewise, but not much; I have memories of a place that's more Zeallike than this was, and they may be overlapping. It's not much with the structures at all, really, that I remember. I only recall one building, a large, white... I want to say "castle", but the word only fits in the sense that it means "place that housed the ruling class", as it didn't look much like an Earthly castle from what I recall. I don't recall animals, only people and fauna, though that doesn't mean there weren't any; I believe there were, I just didn't see them. The people looked human, or vaguely humanoid, from what I remember.

The Garden doesn't have to be found in big things. It's in the small things, too. I can find it in something as seemingly mundane as doing the shopping, as easy to find as the sky above my head. There are fragments of the Garden in most places; it's a case of being in the right frame of mind to notice them. The Garden is, largely, within.

But that is not the Garden, because the Garden can't be put into words. It's just a poor attempt at trying to convey a taste of what it's like, and the more I try and do so the more it becomes my words and the less it is the Garden, so I'll stop, for fear of losing it entirely. That's not modesty on my part; it's an acknowledgement that the Garden is something far beyond the true comprehension of humankind, at least in this current incarnation.

But it's my reason. Knowing it exists, knowing it means something that tantalises the edges of my comprehension and that I'll probably never full understand in this life, is knowing that joy, and hope, and dreams that soar on wings high above the earth, are eternal and timeless and embodied in a land that makes them tangible; and that knowledge is what fires me, to continue to discover and uncover, to explore existence and what it has to offer. Knowing there's a "safe base", and knowing that the universe is a sentience that has the mind to produce such places, are the twin ropes that anchor me in my search. I could search without them, of course, but it's infinitely more comforting to know they're there.


( 1hp damage — Attack! )
(Deleted comment)
Sep. 17th, 2005 03:03 am (UTC)
I got an offer, but I'm kind of being cagey about it at the moment; for one thing it's not OMGCERTAIN yet, so I don't want to go around blowing my mouth off.

Suffice to say there's a plannish sort of thing in the works; and I won't be leaving university or owt, so I'll still be around.
( 1hp damage — Attack! )


Not Falling Off Ledges, Power and Wisdom

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