Walking in Mind

A Trail of Thoughts

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A Separation


That late winter day, do you remember it still? The rain had passed, the sun was out and off we went, skipping work like a couple of truant teenagers, five or six miles up through the woods and back home along the vineyard trails.

We hardly said a word that afternoon, but later, when making some tea, you told me you’d kept your head high, your gaze wide. You talked to me about the sky that looked as if it had been painted by a young Yves Klein, about the little birds flitting in and out of the still dormant vines, about the light on the far-off sea. Only once, you said, did you kneel to ground, there where the white rocket flowers had colonized the field.

You were disappointed that I’d noticed none of these things, but courteous enough to listen when I compared the hole in the neighbour’s wall to the stoma in my belly — the Bocca della Verità, you said, shit will out. You carried on listening when I talked about how beautiful I found the still damp wood of the telegraph pole, the archipelago of algae on the rainwater puddle, the yolky lichen on the fallen mastic branch. Why didn’t you call me over? That was what you asked when I told you about the bitter almond flowers and the pawprint in the newly resurfaced track.

Not long after we went our separate ways. Your question haunts me still.











Via Artis

This being so, Beyle’s advice is not to purchase engravings of fine views and prospects seen on one’s travels, since before very long they will displace our memories completely, indeed one might say they destroy them. For instance, he could no longer recall the wonderful Sistine Madonna he had seen in Dresden, try as he might, because Müller’s engraving after it had become superimposed in his mind

– W.G. Sebald, Vertigo


I must have walked this route a hundred times, have contemplated these walls, these fields so often that what I see is perhaps more memory than perception. Something was different this morning. Perhaps the storm of last night had blown the dregs of winter from the air, sharpening the spring light, recasting the terrain. Or perhaps something had shifted in me. Maybe I was more willing than usual to look without remembering, or without wishing the world into view. Approach each session without memory or desire was the psychoanalyst Wilfred Bion’s advice to those who sought to learn his trade. This morning I looked through the familiar and the same things became something else, a brief outline of a story that began to be told thousands of years ago. Four stations along the via artis.


  1. Petrograph


2. Chiaroscuro


3. Impressionism


4. Abstract Expressionism


5. Epilogue: The challenge we face