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The land was made of rock and swamp and pitted by huge bodies of water.

On the map it was more blue than green

(the green having been eaten away by blue,

back when the blue was white).

 

What little was left of the green was wet.

A dark green coating the rock.

It clung to the grey surface of the rock,

because the rock was the only solid thing,

in a thing made mostly of moisture.

 

Unlike the map, the aerial view, was predominantly green.

In the satellite image even the water was green,

until it zoomed in,

and then, the water was purple.

 

At sea level, it was a grey-green image that hadn’t dried.

The empty spaces were filled with water;

the air was white with it,

and got trapped in the trees on the opposite side of the lake.

 

Resting on the surface of the lake was a pier.

It was almost flush with the water and skimmed it.

 

From the level of the pier, the land receded

and became the far horizon,

of a vast liquid plane.

 

The pier went out a short way, into the water, then stopped,

and pointed at a house on the opposite side of the lake.

The house was mostly obscured by trees,

that shattered its outline

and edged it with green.

 

The greens became more complex in the middle distance.

Browns and yellows appeared.

And the line of the lake was broken by reeds,

that grew up above it,

 

and were reflected down on it,

when the water was still

(which it always was)

and supported their upside-down image.

 

The vertical lines of the reeds and their reflections,

were extended by tree trunks,

and continued, into the sky.

 

The sounds from the house,

mostly of children,

would,

after a delay,

curve around and come from behind.

 

Around the corner and out through the narrows,

the lake was wide open and choppy.

But there,

in what would have been a bay,

had it not been fresh water,

the air was still and the land had more of a presence.

 

Because there was no wind,

and the land rimmed the horizon,

the overcast sky was doubled by the water,

and gave a dizzying feeling of being pinned inside, a hinged sphere of grey glass.

 

The curvature of the glass and the doubling of the surfaces,

made depth perception impossible,

and everything, seem heavy.

 

The thin layer of white air,

through which the scene had to travel,

gave the scene an illusory quality,

that diffused the present,

and exposed something distant.

 

If sound needs a medium to vibrate in, then this was the perfect setting.

The air was water.

The water was vast.

The sky was a concave trap.

Everything was dense and tight, and played upon the inaudible,

like the dying reverberations of a tuning fork,

or the last oscillations of a clap.

 

A constant, inaudible, amplitude, permeated the landscape.

But apart from the occasional echo of children,

there was nothing but the drone of mosquitos,

and the intermittent splash of invisible fish,

making circles on the surface of the lake.

 

The circles bent toward the pier in an arc - following the passage of the fish.

 

Looking over the edge of the pier and into the water,

tiny white specks were visible.

They were spinning in the dark grey, in a series of layers

that extended down into the water, and beyond the reach of daylight.

 

The specks were all small but of various shapes and sizes,

and made from many things:

present things and former things,

things that had just begun

and things that had once been bigger.

 

The lake and island were a cul-de-sac

of a much bigger network of lakes and islands

that stretched far beyond the horizon.

 

The flatness of the terrain,

rather than opening up the landscape,

made it easier to get lost.

 

It was devoid of distinctive features,

with which to orient oneself.

 

Only the unreliable clouds,

which sometimes formed peaks on the horizon,

could have been used as a landmark.         

Their suggestion of another landscape,        

less uniform than the maze of lakes,

was all the more enticing, because it was not real,

because there was no other landscape,

no distant peaks to climb.

 

There was only one road off the island,

and it was a series of long straight roads,

cut into a dense green mass.

It parted the trees,

which came to a point,

at the apex of the road.

It was a slow grey arrow,

that never got less far away.

 

Eventually the road would bend,

but only to connect with another,

long, straight road.

 

The road was outlined by trees, which towered above it

and created a barrier,

between the road and a dark, boggy forest,

that was as impenetrable to the eye as the body. 

 

A few kilometres from the island, the road went up a long steep hill,

then curved to reveal a gentle rise, that was crowned with an island of trees.

 

The island of trees was in the middle of the road

And grew longer as the road grew shorter.

 

There were four types of tree on the island.

There were black and white birches,

two types of pine

and three small rowans,

bearing early, orange fruit.

 

The island was not wide, and was flanked either side, by the road,

which was forced to diverge, to accommodate the island.

 

It didn’t make sense.

Why swathes of forest had been cleared to make room for the road,

but the island of trees had remained.

 

The verges of the island had been recently mowed but badly cut,

and the shafts of nettles and willow bay herb,

made a rough and clumpy border.

 

The grass growing up through the road,

made it look like two roads,

which, at the crossroads,

split into four.

 

The lines of each road,

kept exactly the same distance between them,

as they branched

and followed the curves of the island.                     

The flow of the lines was fluid.

They looked like lines, drawn in sand,

with a two pronged,

y-shaped

stick.    

 

The lines of the road, mirrored each other,

and the two roads, mirrored each other,

as they bowed

and cupped the island.

 

From a few metres back,

the crossroads looked,

like the bottom half,

of a heart shape.

 

After the choice between right and left had been made,

the road straightened out

before bulging and smoothly tapering,

to meet the other road,

in another half heart shape,

 

that was now,

upside down.              

                

At the pointed base of the heart shape, which,

seen from above,

was more like the tip of an onion dome,

the two roads once again became,

a long straight road.

 

Greeted with the prospect, of another long straight road,

the eye was attracted back to the island of trees.       

 

The long straight road, at either end of the island,

was a long grey strip laid bare.

But the road around the island was unresolved.

 

The island of trees captured the gaze, and lead the eye around itself,

on a potentially infinite course.     

 

Somehow, it felt permanent.

Maybe that was why the surveyors had left it.

It was a blind spot on their equipment,

and they had compensated for it,

by basing their calculations,

on surrounding information.

                                                 

The island of trees was there if it was seen. It was there if it was not seen.

It exists there now, unobserved.

It exists in the darkness and during the day.

It will change.

But the essence of the island,

its location,

its ratio of pine to birch and rowan,

will essentially stay the same.

Because the island cannot exist as anything,

other than itself.

It is of itself and for itself,

It is a knot, in a long straight road,

that loops, and tightens on itself.

The island of trees is not on the map.

It does not fit on the piece of paper.

The map would have to be bigger than a sail, or depict a lot less,

for the island to be on it.

But a map that specific or that big

would not be very useful.

A map any bigger would be difficult to fold.

And a large scale map, on the same size of paper,

could represent the island accurately,

but not much more than that,

and a map is only useful,

when it emphasises relationships,

between elements of space.

 

On the satellite image the island of trees,

was almost impossible to find.

It was just another island,

in a vast expanse of islands,

that existed and ended together,

one beside another,

in the never-ending exactly the same,

where the island didn’t matter anymore.

*made for and read at Constellations, 2017 Exhibition Laboratory, Helsinki

*