I find that right now, three dimensionality seems to pop into focus more when I am seeing angular buildings and it takes a bit more effort to get three dimensionality when I look at nature. But, I wanted to see what I could do so I went over to the Starbucks at Lake Afton, in Yardley. This Starbucks is a particularly pleasant "coin du soleil" as they say in French... a nice spot in the sun overlooking the lake. The drive from Trenton to Yardley is quite pleasant after you get off the highway and see the surrounding houses slowly change from modern day colonials to the Queen Anne's Victorians as you approach the historic district. For me, when seeing the Victorian homes with new eyes, I was drawn to the magic of the spaces that make up the wrap around porches with turned posts and curved brackets, the turrets, and the toothing of the wooden fish scale shingles on the upper floors. It's a difficult style to define as witnessed by this exchange:
In 1884, California Architect and Building News printed the following about the Queen Anne style:
“Architect: ‘Well I declare, that is a pretty fair house plan for an amateur, only you have no space for stairways and closets. Did you make it yourself?’
Prospective Builder: ‘Yes, but the only thing that puzzles me is to know what style of cottage it is. It is not Gothic nor Italian nor – ‘
Architect: ‘No it is absolutely nothing. As to style it is simply a meaningless hodge-podge to be frank with you.’
Prospective Builder: ‘Well, what shall I call it, have you no names for hodge-podges?’
Architect: ‘Oh! Yes, We call ‘em Queen Annes.’”
Well, the Queen Anne homes are a bit fancy free and if you add to them the Colonial Revival Buildings such as the Yardley Town Hall and the Yardley National Bank and the Federal Style buildings such as the Joshua Van Horn House you get a pleasant mix of gently aged eccentricity with more formal, proportioned styles. The Colonial Revival buildings have classic proportions, elaborate front doors, with decorative crown pediments and overhead fanlights and sidelights and hipped or gabled, medium-pitch roofs. The Federal Buildings typically have roofs covered with wood shingles, and dormers with segmental arches with decorative elements representing various styles including Renaissance, Palladian, French roccoco and Greek and Roman architecture. In the summer, homeowners and business people fly the American Flag or its drapery. You get a kind of feeling of patriotism and as the modern colonial-style homes echo the nationalism of their Colonial Revival predecessors. The rectangles of these style homes are broken up by the whimsy of the Queen Anne shapes.
Lake Afton, a man-made mill pond, is surrounded by trees, pocketed with benches, and terminates in a Carpenter Gothic stone church, St. Andrew's Episcopal, with a steeply pitched, slate covered roof and gable roof porch with decorative posts, brackets and a quatrefoil cut in the main facing panel of the gable at the end of the lake opposite from the Starbucks' terrace. Carpenter Gothic uses picturesque massing and Gothic Revival architectural detailing such as distinctive pointed arches; exposed framing timbers; and steep, vaulted roofs with cross-gables and hearkens back to a reaction against the modern and a yearning for the medieval. Gothic was coupled with a re-awakening of "High Church" Anglo-Catholic movement that reacted against non-conformism and yearned for older, simpler, more pastoral times. So, we have in Yardley, feelings of a classic order, democracy, nationalism, whimsy, playfulness, as well as a hearkening to older, more authoritarian, simpler, more emotional times.
I got my coffee, took a few sips, and looked out over the lake. I have been at this coffeeshop, at times on an almost weekly basis, but I have never seen the lake and its surroundings as I have seen them that day. It took me a bit of a trick to get my eyes to focus correctly. For some reason, it is much easier for me to see architecture in 3 dimensions. I think it has something to do with linearity of the building lines and the use of negative space to emphasize the dimensionality. At this point, when I look at the organic forms of nature, my eyes don't automatically register three dimensions.
If I focused in a certain way as I looked out over the lake , I could see the trees separate from the background and from each other, trunk by trunk, branch by branch, twig by twig and leaf by leaf and move forward towards me in a gentle exhale. Usually, I would gaze upon this lake and have the same impression that my readers have if they were to see a postcard of the lake. This time, I am in a living matrix; I am in the ecosystem. I have a relationship with the trees and they have a relationship with me. I can see why the ancients worshiped trees and believed that the trees had spirits.
I took a little walk around the lake over to the patch of the globes of thistle waiting to bloom. There were Dark Green Fritillary butterflies darting in and out of the orchids of thistle. I could see the spines of the thistle in space and the spikes on the leaves and the stem.
The Negative space between the thistles, leaves and stems starts to mean much more to me... something like appreciating a Thing-in-Itself and a Thing-Not-In-Itself: Being and Non-Being.
If you can get through the Scottish brogue, A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle is a funny look at thistle and life. It's the power of seeing images in your head and simultaneously flashing two ideas in your head at the same time. A kind of Scotland meets Tibet bardo crossing into enlightenment. You know, a sort of Tibetan meditation of keeping your eyes open and focusing as you breathe and meditate. A further way to think of this is ousting and eviscerating all existing boundaries of thought (ie my world in two dimensions) and creating a new self-driven relevancy (ie my place in a three dimensional living world).
Now when I look at trees, I get a sense of being enveloped or wrapped.
What's with these Girls sitting beneath the tree? Do they not know that they are on the geese's special spot? My husband and I sat on the bench one day and a goose literally stopped and stared at my husband. He, apparently, didn't take the hint to move on. So the leader of the gaggle moved closer to him. Pat blissfully ignored him. The leader came right up to Pat and put his head on the arm rest of the bench. Pat did nothing. Finally, the leader literally put his head in Pat's lap. Fearing the loss of something precious, Pat and I decided to take the hint and move on. These girls don't know what the geese's idea of space and don't have a relationship with them.
Looking at these girls reminds me a bit like college when I used to look out at fellow students lounging on the grass in the Quad. There was always a bit of a distance between me and them and know I know why. They were happily playing frisbee or socializing in clumps or resting on the ground and I wasn't in the matrix. It was like I was looking through a window at them instead having a three dimensional experience.
I felt much closer to the girls in this picture than the distance suggests in the picture. Since I had the perception of depth, even though they were far away, we had a connection between us.
The Dalai Lama has said: "One of the most important philosophical insights in Buddhism comes from what is known as the theory of emptiness. At its heart is the deep recognition that there is a fundamental disparity between the way we perceive the world, including our own experience in it, and the way things actually are.
The philosophy of emptiness reveals that this is not only a fundamental error but also the basis for attachment, clinging and the development of our numerous prejudices. According to the theory of emptiness, any belief in an objective reality grounded in the assumption of intrinsic, independent existence is simply untenable. All things and events, whether ‘material’, mental or even abstract concepts like time, are devoid of objective, independent existence.
To intrinsically possess such independent existence would imply that all things and events are somehow complete unto themselves and are therefore entirely self-contained. This would mean that nothing has the capacity to interact with or exert influence on any other phenomena. But we know that there is cause and effect – turn a key in a car, the starter motor turns the engine over, spark plugs ignite and fuel begins to burn… Yet in a universe of self-contained, inherently existing things, these events could never occur!
So effectively, the notion of intrinsic existence is incompatible with causation; this is because causation implies contingency and dependence, while anything that inherently existed would be immutable and self-enclosed. In the theory of emptiness, everything is argued as merely being composed of dependently related events; of continuously interacting phenomena with no fixed, immutable essence, which are themselves in dynamic and constantly changing relations. Thus, things and events are 'empty' in that they can never possess any immutable essence, intrinsic reality or absolute ‘being’ that affords independence."