My 'second life of seeing'
5 January 2023
I’m watching men in high viz jackets dismantle the holiday winter wonderland, with all of its lights in the lake and woods. I don’t come here often anymore; in fact, I hardly come at all. That said, I’ve been trying to get in to the woods for the past week and a half, and have not been able to, because of the iron barricades and barriers forming a contour around it. One has to pay, and quite a lot too, to enter the winter wonderland set up in this public park.
But back to the fact that I don’t come here anymore. I have started finding it impossible to retrieve those early joys, and the exhilaration, of finding and knowing this park and its woodlands. I marvel now at how magical I found those early days, when I moved to Lakeview Court in January 2019, roughly a year before the COVID pandemic began. I can hardly think about it now, without referring to V. S. Naipaul, and his novel, The Enigma of Arrival, which I read a couple of years after that moment. In that novel, Naipaul uses a term which I’ll never forget, ‘my second life of seeing’. That expression captures so well the experience that I began to have when I moved into the flat located inside Roundhay Park. It’s as if all the ways of walking, and of looking at trees, shrubs, and plants, that I had developed as a child in Coffee Grove, and that had been suppressed with the years, awakened themselves again to me. I was having a childhood all over again. All the urges of touching and speaking to trees, of connecting my desires to plants, of hearing everything that would speak to me in the silence—indeed, of being silent among the beings of this thriving world—were alive again. But the beings among whom I walked, the myriad flowers of that first spring, the mysterious trees with their complex foreign barks, where opaque to me. All I was privy to was the denseness and richness of lives and identities not known to me. The sense of the unavailable was a gift, more powerful and open than if I had known all their names. It stirred my desire. I was a child again. And being a child was saving me, freeing me, loosening me.
6 January 2023
My mother is here in Roundhay. She’s walking in the woods with me. She’s taken with the things that I don’t notice anymore: the green moss that covers a stone, the sight of a bare tree in the half-light at dusk. She’s taking photos of such things. I can picture what I must have looked like when I first moved to the park and took up walking, what my interior world must have been like—the picture, or the musical composition, of seeing a new world of lively things. A second life of seeing.