Phenomenological Landscape Engagement
"In a forest, I have felt many times over that it was not I who looked at the forest. Some days I felt the trees were looking at me."
|Photo by: J. Kollwitz, nature photography extraordinaire, Alan Seeger Natural Area, Pennsylvania|
In his book, Eyes and Mind (1964), Maurice Merleau-Ponty describes the reflexive nature of body and landscape as a painter becomes the painted. This phenomenological experience describes a 'direct and primitive contact with the world' where the body is no longer outside of consciousness but the means through which we become physically present and emotionally engaged in the world. This break from the Romantic view of distant perception and contemplation has caused the formation of a new branch of cultural geography driven by the body's emotional entanglements and engagements with the natural world.
Next time you find yourself walking alone in the woods, stop and consider all of your senses. What can you hear, smell, touch? Put away your camera. Actively engage yourself with being present.