I had an odd experience yesterday. I went for a walk through Callan Park, an old disused psychiatric facility here in Sydney. Anita and I roamed along the meandering pathways, as we often do. But this time something began to stir in me as I gazed at the diversity of contours in the dense forest that surrounded us. We continued through and, as we were leaving, I saw a gardener. I went over and asked, “when did the water stop flowing here?” He replied, “what water? We’ve never had water here and I’ve been here for decades.” He did not know that, in his down-to-earth speech, he had released a flow of images. Where he saw only present depressions, grass gutters, meadows, and clutter he had to clear, I had seen flowing water “long gone”. Indeed I had caught a glimpse of Callan Park in its essence as movement, or becoming. Its present station is a moment of stability in the historical flow that is named “Callan Park”. I caught wind of that flow and my poem below is my attempt to articulate that essence in words. Such impertinence is only successful if the poem, too, flows so that you, my reader, can see both the static image (station) and the flowing essence called Callan Park. The gardener and I are seeing the same Callan Park but the park appears to him only as its current fixed appearance—its present station.
I received a glimpse of its living history as well: the Callan Park long gone but still “alive”. Both appearances are present—one unconcealed to prosaic eyes, the other withdrawn or departed but still available to poetic eyes. An act of poetic invention then becomes possible, bringing forth into existence other stations of the flowing meaning we call Callan Park—both historical and futural stations.
old growth forest
geysering into blue sky
on the beaches of
scattering of whitecap birds
debris moaning below
stone pathways pushed akilter
ancient roots surging their way
glacial earthquakes from below
stone channels meandering
through impassable undergrowth
massive boulders shaped
by coiling currents of air
and streaming torrents of rain
of grasses and flowers
gracing the swelling vastness
rusty fountains reaching up to the sky
in silent supplication
So what lies ahead for us, as Callan Park moves on from its present station to the next? Perhaps there is a futural hint in the poem. The rocks that we think are so permanent, so fixed, so reliable, are easily and casually pushed aside by titanic forces that rise from unimaginable depths of silence. These titans wish to move and NO station can withstand them!
The path to the next historical station is littered with the debris of civilisations. One way we may attune to this catastrophe is by exploring this word, “historical station”. This word emerged from the Romantic vision of reality—a reality governed by love. The power of love lies in overcoming the isolation of stations in favour of the flowing that supports and produces those stations (material fixities) along the way. With this attunement to the power of love and its appearances in the world, we may open up to hints of future becoming and gracefully accept the disintegration of present appearances, knowing that another as-yet-unknown station is on its way. We have a part to play in the contours of its emergence.
So play as poets! This is the Romantic vision!
A fuller version of this work is at: New Physical