Poetics of Space (and Time)
There is this place where I like to go, and over the years many things have happened there. This place is Lake Country's Reiswig Park.
According to my Internet browsing, Reiswig Park is 2.7 hectares of beach, field area, picnic area and running track. It is also adjacent to Beasley Park, where Lake Country Youth Soccer Association holds court. There is a soccer clubhouse and a picnic gazebo, beach volleyball nets and a small, sandy beach largely ruled by ducks and geese where one night a friend of mine skinny-dipped as a protest over an agonizing romantic breakup. (For the record, mom, I did not join her.)
I don't really distinguish between Beasley and Reiswig in my mind, and I even had to look them up to make sure I referenced them correctly for this post.
One winter day, I drove to the park then decided it was too cold for me to get out of the sanctuary of my heated vehicle. I sat in my car and gazed at the snow-covered fields but saw, instead, the green grass of summer. Images of this park in other moments were that present in my memory.
That day, it seemed to me that time and space only exist as theory. Time and space are linguistic creations as much as they are tangible experiences. It's just words, this processing of the experiences of life, it's just what we call it. But really, time is only as finite as the memories we build, and space is only the location which holds my memories -- and yours, too.
There exists, therefore, a corporate sense of community to the concept of space -- of place. As if the place, itself, retains the memories of those who have come and gone, and who will come in the future. I am not, after all, the only one who has memories at Beasley park. The park, however, embodies fragments of us all.
I don't remember Beasley Park merely as a physical location, rather, memories of this park are populated with people and with events. Wood Lake might freeze in winter and sparkle in summer, the trees might dress themselves with foliage which is green in summer and gold in autumn and might drape their arms in white pajamas every winter, but still, I remember the birds, and Mary's dogs, and runaway toddlers, and people speaking languages I cannot decipher, and the relief that wading into a cool lake brings to my skin on a hot July Okanagan day.
Inside my mind's eye that winter day in my car, I saw not only the winter white of the park in January. I also saw the concert stage I set up when I threw an all day concert event from the gazebo; I saw the fireworks display and fireman-manned bonfires at Halloween; I saw Dave, now deceased, and his daughter, paddle boarding at the beach and offering complimentary sentiments about the way I looked in my bikini. I saw the progressions of my children growing up, and myself surrounded by friends with guitars, jamming on the sand of Wood Lake's waterfront. I even saw the shadowy impression of events yet to come, as concrete a reality of someday as was the reality of today.
At Beasley, I met Chris and listened as he told me all his thoughts on God -- then watched as he drove out of the park on a bumblebee yellow Harley. At Beasley, I passed my love of volleyball on to my daughter, and she passed her love of soccer on to me. At Beasley, I took my laptop to a shady picnic table and typed the draft of my Master's thesis (Running Away from the Zoo to Join the Circus), and at Beasley I tore my hamstring doing yoga (the splits. No irony there.) It hurt, and I said bad words. For me, they still hover in the air every time I walk on that side of the beach.
Beasley Park appears in Chapter Two of my first novel, when Sylvester the boxer dog gets loose and runs out onto the soccer field, tripping up and breaking Carlie's leg. The buoys and elm trees at Beasley appear in a not-half-bad acrylic painting I once attempted. And Beasley Park in all its seasons appears in the photo files cached on my home computer.
When I think of Beasley, I think of all these things and so many more, for these are a fraction of the memories I have made at Beasley Park. So, Beasley for me will never just be a single snowy day. Beasley is a compound, a conglomerate, a fraction of my life's memories, and as such, thoughts of Beasley evoke not merely images, but also feelings about what life can be.
I like the idea of place having memory. If these boots -- these walls, these fields -- could speak. I like the idea that memory encompasses time differently than breath does. Memory exists simultaneously in past, present and future -- what will be already is. The memory of Beasley park pre-dates the tracks I have laid down in her soil. The memory of Beasley will carry on once I no longer walk Wood Lake's shores.
I've been thinking about all of this lately, in large part due to the current exhibit featured at Kelowna Art Gallery -- The Poetics of Space. Within the exhibit is a landscape photo of Vancouver's Expo '86 site. I love this photo because of its incomplete nature, by which I mean, the current architectural landscape of Vancouver is largely missing from the scene. It hadn't been built yet. In its place, the artist (Christos Dikeakos) has sketched a canoe, a sturgeon, a cedar bark rope and a pole by which traditional indigenous peoples would once have fished on that now urbanized spot. And yet, the land holds that memory, and nothing which comes after can alter the fact of the land's previous use, its previous existence.
The land which hosted the Expo '86 site, of course, has memories which date further back than any human eyes can know, as does any plot of ground we humans call home. We forget, I think, that we don't really own it, we are merely tenants on this planet. Even the memories we create on this land we lease are not our exclusive property. Instead, there is a corporate nature to our accumulated experiences and to the knowledge acquired in interaction with the physical landscapes where we dwell -- there is a physic weight of time and place. And that community of wisdom is, for me, what it means to truly grasp the Poetics of Space. In that understanding, I believe, the future of our planet exists.