May 6, 2021
The High Plains have been enshrouded in clouds this past week. The southerly winds have returned, between periods of heavy rain there is a constant spray of fine precipitation that shifts volumetrically with the turbulent atmospheric flows. As the land loses definition in the cloud, it seems to retreat from a stable spatial characterization. I’m reminded of a topological space, where closeness is no longer defined by distance. The immediate terrain appears metric, but beyond the local it is integrated into a more complex space defined by shifting relations. Topological thinking has been used to develop new models for history and time, prominently by Deleuze and Serres amongst others. Deleuze’s formulation of the virtual and the plane of immanence speaks to a Serresian view of time as a crumpled handkerchief folding in on itself. These frameworks offer to rescue history from an inert past, instead transforming it into a dynamic, generative field always interacting with local presents in the process of becoming.
How then to think through all the layers of meaning, the events unfolding in this space, ever since the tectonic collision over 300 million years ago that began to form the High Plains? The First Nations people, the colonial explorers, the cattlemen, gold prospectors, the families who fled a war-torn Europe, the engineers, the skiers and mountain bikers, a polyphony (or cacophony) of voices and trajectories that are still present. I recall Gerald Murnane’s novella The Plains, how that landscape was mythologised and constantly reinterpreted by its inhabitants, and I wonder what this place meant to all the people who have passed here.
I met a man at the head of the track to Mt Cope who was crawling through the shrub taking photos of local flora. He had no voice, but communicated by scribbling on a small notebook that he had grown up here, a long time ago now, and has now journeyed back to reconnect with this land of his childhood. He kept gesturing out to the plains with one hand, the other on his heart, attempting to convey how much this place meant to him. This I’ll remember fondly, it feels like the right point of departure as I leave with lots of material and lots to think about.