The landscape mind
By BRAD KRUMHOLZ
Ten years ago, I started my theatre company, NACL, in New York City. Eight years ago this week, NACL took over the old Catskill Actors Theatre in Highland Lake, NY. For the next five years I, along with co-founder Tannis Kowalchuk, would come up to Sullivan County, mostly on weekends throughout the year, and for entire summers to host the NACL Catskill Festival of New Theatre.
I remember those first journeys so clearly. I would leave New York City on a Friday afternoon, and arrive here at night. Every time I rounded the final bend on Highland Lake Road, I would experience the same feelingwondering if the old, wooden church-turned-theatre would still be standing, if the old Lakewood House resort hotel-turned-artist-residence would still be there.
It always was, megalithic, silent, waiting, empty. Over the course of my stay, my senses would open up. A peace would come upon me, and my inner rhythm would change. There was always a daunting amount of work to be done, but somehow it never became frantic. There was always a sense of placidity about it all. When I returned to the city, it was a different city. I would enter it, wide-eyed and slow, and for the first little stretch of time, peopleon the streets, on the subway, in shopswould look at me, and it always felt that they recognized something in me, that somehow I stood out to them, as a foreigner might appear, an emissary of silence.
Soon, this feeling would fade, and I would enter back into my common city rhythm, churning along with the flow of my fellow urban cohabitants. But since I have come to live here in Sullivan County full-time, my trips to the city are much less frequent, and the Catskills rhythm has become the norm for me.
What can it be that enters into a person in this way? Where does it reside? I am the same, but I have changed. Has my pulse slowed? Is there somehow more space in between my cells...?
I think people tend to view themselves as units, moving through a landscape, seeing it, discerning features, perceiving subtleties. Even on those occasions when we feel at one with our surroundings, there is still often a sense of being separate from them. I am me, here in this place... . Of course, we are materially distinct from other matter, but perhaps our vision of our relationship to it is unrealistic. Perhaps it might be more accurate to say that we are the location. I am the landscape, or an inextricable part of it, and if I allow myself to be open, I can enter into a unison of mind with ita dancethat which I perceive becomes me.
This type of alteration of awareness usually occurs over time, by a process like osmosismy consciousness absorbs the world around it and assimilates. But do we really need time to pass to be able to accomplish this change? Would it not be possible to perform this process instantaneously, like flipping a switch? I am here. I have flipped the switch in my mind. Here I am, simply and fully.
I no longer need to travel two hours to remind myself to see. In this moment, I am sitting on a boulder in the woods. The wind blows through my frame. I taste it with my eyes. A black crow slants across a patch of blue from green to green, through a streak of brilliance. I squint, content and curious. In this moment, I am sitting on a bench. A cyclist races past in multi-colored Lycra, clanking over ruptured asphalt. A pigeons coo finds my ear. The hair on my neck flutters up. I turn my head slightly, and I squint, content and curious. In this moment, I am perched at a desk, air-conditioner humming, fluorescent flickering, tips of my fingers caressing the plastic keys. I peer at the screen. I squint, content and curious.
I am not just in this place. It is not just in me. I have become it, and there can be no location without my own space sharing this moment with it. Sullivan County has given me many gifts, but this one ranks above the rest: the space between things is between me like my bones are branches; its wind wraps and unwinds me.
(Brad Krumholz is co-founder and Artistic Director of North American Cultural Laboratory (NACL Theatre) in Highland Lake, NY.)