Self as Sand Dune: Territories and Orientations:

The new office, desk, studio and archive room has a little window that faces East. I’ve missed the sunrise this morning and the sky is already quite light, but the fact that the room is in a semi-basement flat means that the window is almost at ground level, so much of the spectacle of sunrise is obscured by the fence around the yard, the shed at the end of the yard etc.

Iron stairs step down over this window from the house above into the yard, and so the window is, as it were, under the stairs. Every morning the ironwork grid of the steps are illuminated by shining drops of rain (or possibly dew), each a glistening hemisphere of light. The grid from which they are suspended gives them the appearance of order, of a code or language perhaps, one that I haven’t yet deciphered. But the messages are different everyday, depending on how much it has rained and which droplets have remained formed and which have fallen.

A jet, an early arrival at one of London’s airports, scours the sky overhead, and I notice some wisps of white against pale China blue promising a potentially bright morning. I feel quite grounded here, perhaps one of the advantages or notable characteristics of basement living. I feel the chair on which I’m sitting. Its beech legs offering me strong support, my spine and the base of my spine fitting compactly into the angle made between the chair back and the seat. My partner chose this chair, a pair of the same chairs in fact, in a department store a year or two ago. The chairs were the culmination of years of appeals to have a ‘comfortable chair’. For years I couldn’t really understand what all the fuss was about or justify the cost in time and money of wandering and looking and choosing the ‘right’ chair. But this morning I really appreciate my chair and the time and money it cost to obtain it.

I’m underground, and facing East, and perhaps this is going to affect the way that I write and think and read and work at this desk from now on. Why not? After all the philosophy of Feng Shui takes seriously all such orientations as influential on our lives. Just as certain dates and times might be regarded as more or less auspicious, for a wedding perhaps, or the laying of a foundation stone. Of course, why shouldn’t these factors influence our life and our work.

I can hear a tiny bird peeping, two short, identical notes, over and over. Perhaps you know what kind of bird that is (though I can’t give you the precise note. Let’s just say it’s in the middle-to-high range). From the North, the sound of a motorbike decelerating into a red light, the rider presumably enjoying the deep sound of the engine, which broadcasts their pride in power and speed across a great distance, proclaiming a kind of territory as the motorcyclist makes their way through the Sunday morning city.

We all have our territories. Even a prisoner in a cell, or a homeless person I suspect, retains some sense of orientation and territory as a necessary attribute of life, of living. Secretly we know that, ultimately we will dissipate, and so this territory that we are is intrinsic to our being. And yet, as we wrote here over the past few weeks, we are as much becomings as beings, and our apparent territory is also always in motion, in a constant state of de- and re- construction, like a sand dune in the desert, that moves, travels, retaining an approximate mass while subtly morphing as it moves.

Another airliner passes over, shifting people and goods across the globe. The sky is brighter, whiter and more blue too. The raindrops on the steps outside my window retain their secret code, a magic abacus offering and withholding a calculation I can’t read and don’t really need. I’ve written my Blog post for this week, and now it’s time to wake my partner and make some breakfast.


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