D I A L O G U E S W I T H P L A C E S
IV. THE PLACE OF THE RELATIONAL
Do you know how you feel things in the moment you’re learning their name? Things such as a tree, a colour, an everyday object; there’s a sense of curiosity, and then, suddenly, something breaks free into lightness, with a spark of joy on the new way in which we begin to interact with. A new beginning; we can savour its name, as if it has been born again in front of our minds.
I remember learning the colour blue. In kindergarten, a memory of finally understanding the link between the sound “blue” with what I was painting, and then, with the colour of the sky. In this trio, the amazement I felt, of “oh, this is blue, and that is too!”. The excitement as if discovering a new continent, a new language, and held a new way of relating to the things themselves: the sound, the painting, the sky. From then on, “blue” became the word that means the deep colour of my hometown sky, not alone but in contrast to the stonewall colour and texture of the school playground and the bright white of the surrounding buildings. We learn things in themselves, and we recall them through emotion and the relationship they have with other objects and people. Maybe part of the joy of apprehending the word blue was about the positive relationship I had with my teacher – one in which I felt cared, respected, and free. Perhaps this helped to expand the initial excitement and awe of discovery into a positive relational view with the other elements, built and natural.
In my current practice, I often go back to that memory: I recall the joy of somehow understanding for the first time a connection between sound, concept, what I had in my hands, the physical surroundings and those nuanced, imperceptible and well defined 11 km of atmosphere that make life on Earth possible. This is one of the sensations that I have the most pleasure to work with: one in which I somehow, through my work, can be small, expanding, and a part of everything, simultaneously. It is motivation, primal drive and force. A remembering, and a new discovery.
Naturally, the connection through the colour blue to the sky and nature relates to the sea, a place in which in many hours of being in, nearby, immersed, contemplating it and its horizon link; sailing, surfing, swimming, floating, all forms of buoyancy in movement or not, like others I explored the constant, seemingly opposition between surrender and action, of flowing through with the present senses. Other sensory experiences arise as well: feeling the golden winds indicating its direction; the sense of balance, and particularly, the need of an on-going, learning skill and the correct acknowledgment and use of its limits, in which the body movement first follows the indication of the eyes, and further on, the whole body metabolises data for the constant, soft adjustment of course; between intuition and constant awareness. Blue is a colour of importance in Portuguese traditional crafts, used in vases, dishes, tiles, mosaics, originated in other cultures and people, through which time and closeness we somehow, learned and made our own. Through blue, we get to connect to a historical timeframe as well.
History, symbolism, and perception aspects of the colour; the eyes don’t see – it’s the brain that sees. The eyes simply transmit to the brain. Others see differently – birds have ultraviolet vision, we do not. What we see is partially determined by the information that comes through the eyes, but also what we see depends on our feelings, experiences, memories of what we’ve seen before. Changing our inner perspective, our feelings, the way we relate to reality, changes the way we see. So does practice, and effort.
As adults, we keep replaying this feeling of discovery through acquiring new knowledge about things, through the body and the mind: by travelling, tasting new food, reading. Exposure to new situations. By observing, interacting and discussing with others, while exchanging ideas about subjects; and eventually, for those inclined, through learning new languages. These are ways in which what is old and seen gets to be rediscovered, anew. We get to savour old concepts and places, through rediscovering them through the eyes of the other: an empathic exercise into other worlds of doing and being. I want to ask friends to take me to a favourite place in mine or their city, and be surprised to hear about a new perspective, based on memories, emotions, taste. And dive in; be willing to listen. Ask more questions, as if I’m seeing the place and the friend for the first time. Inquire like a scientist collecting data; discard all previous hypotheses and layers of thought, and just listen. In a society that lives through interminable busy-ness and skimming through the surface of things and people, I want to have the audacity of taking the plunge into intimacy – into-me-you-see -; to dive into depths. And even to expand the view to what doesn’t speak: to what isn’t said, but nuanced. To wonder. And to question myself about what other species that really don’t speak my language but communicate nonetheless, say, wish, think. How does the tree relate, the dog taste, the bee see? What do they want? What are the teachings of water, and if by nothing else, I want to take it as a poetic exercise into living, a vivid alternative to social media. To benefit from an expanded inquiry into the other; from a present, active listening. And to look at cities and others from that blue, inter-relational, rich point of view.