Exploring forgotten places

Posted on September 17, 2011


I stand on the edge of a large, shallow valley.  It is evening and the sky is patchwork of colours: pink, orange, yellow, red and blue.  The valley itself feels distant – a collection of vague shapes rising out of the gathering shadows.  Wrecks of buildings, hillocks, strange trees pop up, catching the patina from the sky.  My friends gayly chatter on and head off towards the comfort of the urban edge, just in sight on the adjacent lip of the valley.  I say I’ll catch them up; there is something I want to do.

As their friendly banter recedes, I begin my path down into the valley.  Ahead I can see flimsy yellow tape drawn almost casually across the worn footway.  ‘Do Not Enter’ it says, repeatedly along its length.  I weigh the risks.  A forbidden landscape lies ahead, but forbidden by whom and forbidden why?  The remnant sun is warm, reflecting off the short cliff to my back and I feel cocooned in its radiance.  The sounds I hear now are the quiet noises of this forgotten place: the buzz of a dragonfly and the imagined wing-beats of an exquisite moth making its way between fleshy green leaf and fleshy green leaf.

I go on, past the tape, drawing a deep breath.  Will I be seized the moment I transgress I think in childlike manner.  As the path becomes real, I come upon new shapes and structures, ones which were hidden from the valley’s rim. What a treasure trove this valley is!  Each new turn in the path reveals another plant or creature enjoying the dying light of the day.  The buildings reveal much more about this forgotten landscape: abandoned lives and ways of living, communities forgotten and perhaps still here.

It is a personal journey, but is it also a collective one? The allure of the places and spaces which are beyond our reach, or within plain sight, yet not seen. Places which we believe are forbidden but for whom there is no clear enforcer, and nor do we really understand why.  Should we be exploring within the walls of the citadels we have built: mastering once again the very fabric with which we have engineered our lives?

What would it mean for us to take this creative re-examination of our ‘cities’, our landscapes (bodily and real, and conceptual). What, for example, is the intersect between how each of us lives in our own physical reality and that imagined reality in which we also inhabit?  What are the possibilities of this fusion for each of us and collectively?  Would it be some burlesque, Hogwarts-like world of flying people, dragons and talking paintings, or perhaps a far more serene and plain place?

How do we begin this journey of exploring the forgotten, the forbidden and the unseen?  Do we reinvent our past in this process, fractally laying down new imprints of past experience, or do we synergistically create something new?

Ahhh, but my friends are calling me.  The coffee has arrived and mine is going cold!  Time for dreaming is over for today.