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Tree, Mask, Forest

Nan's picture

I have chosen a place I love under one enormous weeping beech tree in Swarthmore, PA  to foreground.

The background photo is in the open air Forest Temple in the middle of the sacred Monkey Forest, Ubud, Bali, 1979.  There I was invited by the high priest, Pedanda Gde Manuaba to assist in the sanding of the ears of the sacred Rangda mask. (Its wood was of a particular tree in that forest.)

“What we must talk of here is (hu)man entry into the celebration of beauty and the earth…A breeze had risen whose breath I could feel on my cheek.  As it blew, the clouds behind the mountains drew apart like two sides of a curtain.  At the same time, the cypress trees on the summit seemed to shoot up in a single jet against the sudden blue of the sky.  With them, the whole hillside and landscape of stones and olive trees rose slowly back into sight.  Other clouds appeared.  The curtain closed.  And the hill with its cypress trees and houses vanished once more.  Then the same breeze, which was closing the thick folds of the curtain over other hills, scarcely visible in the distance, came and pulled them open here anew.  As the world thus filled and emptied its lungs, the same breath ended a few seconds away and then, a little further off, took up again the theme of a fugue that stone and air (and cypress) were playing on a world-scale.  Each time, the theme was repeated in a slightly lower key.  As I followed it into the distance, I became a little calmer.  Reaching the end of so stirring a vision, with one final glance I took in the whole range of hills breathing in unison as they slipped away, as if in some song of the entire earth.

 Millions of eyes, I knew, had gazed at this landscape, and for me it was like the first smile of the sky.  It took me out of myself in the deepest sense of the word.  It assured me that but for my love and the wondrous cry of these stones, there was no meaning in anything.  The world is beautiful, and outside it there is no salvation.”

-- Albert Camus, Lyrical and Critical Essays, “The Desert”, 1950.