Seeing by Touch

The time for playing in the woods is over.

So many powerful dreams end with the wonder and practical reality of the frost. But then a new door opens.

One becomes attuned overnight to edges, the points where things end and other things begin, points that are not boundaries but moments of shared conversation. Yes, conversation.

Conversation is not a thing limited to words. It can be done body to body. Words are like birdsong over it. Look up. You will see the old one speak.

We are so small, but we have the power to pass through the great ones. I learned this from my wolf dog Winston, who always tracked edges, and always looked to edges to find something to track. Where things departed or arrived, that’s what interested him.


The scientist Goethe wrote that colour is really the boundary between the light and dark above. The particular shades of those north Cascadian mountains are iterations of the same effect as the contrast between the black forest and the white cliffs, on a smaller scale, and take place within the human mind, not out in the world, or, better said, we live on the edge where they become. “Become” will do. “Become visible,” diminishes that power. Since these are intimate effects, let’s return to the intimate. Not to the hoary wild raspberries I showed you above, but to the strawberries deeper in the grass and the forest floor:

The frost is much finer here, and reacts more subtly to edges. In other words, edges here are subsumed into a whole more than they are a metre away, where they are alone and without residual warmth to soften the boundaries. That’s exactly how light worked to Goethe. Light, after all, has varying degrees of energy, depending on its wavelength. Our eyes touch it. We see by feel, groping, as these strawberries do, in the dark. It’s good to remember how very, very ancient we are on this Earth. The strawberry leaves above, which are reminiscent of hands, are actually eyes. The opposite is also true: our eyes are leaves.


Pleasant Camp, Cascadia

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