THE PRACTICE OF SEEING, THE REVELATION IN OBSERVING
WRITTEN BY ROSIE FEA..
‘Audrey Hepburn is watching me from the wall in her signature swanky black attire as I brush off bouts of guilt for not being outside right now. It’s 31 degrees, but I sit in the cool comfort of the reading room periodically looking out the the window of the front door. I see cars and people whizz by with haste, but safe and cocooned in my shell of decadence and culture I stay perched, unfazed by the outside rushes. Their noise is muted, masked by the record I have playing on the turntable - ‘great film themes no.3’, which makes life out there look like it’s a dreamy 1960’s continental advert.
It’s been 2 days since I set up a life inside here and I think I’ve since experienced emotions that make up every facet of the word thankfulness. My return to Melbourne has me asking how we can attempt to explain feelings that are too big and complex for words. I am experiencing total nostalgia and familiarity in the most unlikely scenes. Seeing the colours and tones of old locations as they transition from my memory into real time again, while simultaneously drinking them in completely anew - so novel and never before been known.
The house is an old Victorian-era shop front, in the heart of Collingwood. Being inside it feels kind a painting of an artist’s residence in Europe, or the set of a deeply romantic Eric Rohmer film. It has the quirks of an inner city Parisian apartment, with handcrafted details reminiscent of an aged estate or atelier in Provence. Hanging lights with pull strings dangle from high ceilings, there are dainty brass doorknobs, a copper sink, a honeycomb tile shower room with a mint green door, and a grand old bath that made me feel like Rachel McAdams in that scene from The Notebook where she wears her wedding veil and turns the nozzles with her feet when I lay inside it.
I consider the role environment and place have in influencing our creativity and perception of the world, and how when outer environment so aptly nurtures our inner longings a higher level of creative thinking is always brought about.
Soon after, I walk out into the city sauna.
Wearing the wind,
Swimming in it.
Dressed in the heat,
No toe dips, straight to full plunge.
I see people on scooters and bicycles and a big mural of Alf Stewart on the side of a building.
Tall, lithe African boys playing basketball on the courts underneath council flats.
A fiery pink evening sky out towards the west.
Groups of friends sit outside bars and more fill restaurants eating pizzas and various Friday night feasts. Everything is warm and the street is buzzing with a pending weekend feel - girls and boys dressed up for the evening, more in cars speeding past on their way to whatever…’
I originally penned these words as a journal entry, but think there may be a more universal, common story to be found among the personal recollections. They serve as an exploration of memory, growth, and nostalgia.
What is beginning to be revealed is this:
- In the act of returning to a place once inhabited, or even one still regularly known, the concept of seeing becomes more concrete. We either overlook the experience, or allow ourselves to arrive in a sweet moment of consideration where nothing is taken for granted.
- Retreat and distance from a familiar sight brings space for the memory to condense and make more precise the insight it carried. Things often take on greater meaning only once they have been left behind or stepped away from.
- Returning to them then becomes a ferocious love affair, with senses so heightened by the absence, and the underlying thrill of knowing the reunion may only be for a fleeting moment.
- Nostalgia is not tangible; existing only in our individual minds. But the way it can shape our reality, having been influenced by past emotions or recollections, is lucid. Almost addictive.
This process of being present in our reality is welcomed through active participation in the ordinary extraordinariness of noticing - the practice of seeing and being with the self as a daily ritual. In ongoing attempts to see beyond monotony, and consider with more weight the paths I cross on a day to day basis, I often wonder how the world would wear the warmth of my appreciation in moments like these.
As I walk, do my feet paint a trail? Is it gentle, digestible, helpful?
I wonder if the indulgence of our own private experience is not just for us. Maybe our thoughts and projections of reality and past recollections actually offer what those around us may need in any given moment. On bustling streets, busy freeways, and in quiet shop exchanges perhaps we can all give each other a ‘piece of our mind’, without even saying a word.
if my mind were a song
would you dance?
people on the streets
would it clothe you,
in novel possibility
or would it be
— Rosie Fea is a writer and SP contributor