Proximity: A Meditative Visual Poem for Those Reaching for Something They Can’t Quite Grasp, Inspired by Trees

It salved me exceptionally, this meditative visual poem– part David Byrne, part Bill T. Jones, and part Buddha– radiating Hermann Hesses century-old knowledge that “whoever has actually found out how to listen to trees no longer wishes to be a tree [but] wants to be absolutely nothing except what he is.”

We live by unconsciously determining the inverted distances of our proximity.

Commissioned by the London International Mime Festival, shot by Dawsons son, Roman Sheppard Dawson, and including music by author Jonny Pilcher, the film was motivated by a line from a brief lyrical essay titled “Close” from poet and thinker David Whytes exceptional collection Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words (public library)– a book of lyrical reanimations of language that touched me deeply when I initially read it several years ago (and for the current English edition of which I had the honor and delight of making up the intro).

When I am sad, I like to picture myself ending up being a tree. Branches that bend without breaking, fractal with possibility, reaching resolutely toward the light. Roots touching the web of belonging beneath the surface of the world, that magnificent mycelial network succoring and supporting and linking tree to tree– connection so uncomplicated, so imperturbable, so totally free from the fragility of human relationships.

After composing about wintering trees as supreme instructors in durability, I received a lovely note from a reader in England– theater artist, motion director, and Hatha Yoga teacher Andrew Dawson, a former student of Merce Cunninghams. He shared a kindred-spirited movie he had made, in his words, “for those who are grabbing something more but cant rather understand it, for those on their journey, not yet at their destination.”

Here is Whytes original mycelium of inspiration for Dawsons Proximity:

Complement Dawsons poetic short film with Dylan Thomass cinematic poem about how trees brighten the marvel of our humanity and Robert Macfarlanes reflection on how trees embody the trick to healthy relationships, then review Whytes lyrical rerooting of the meanings of courage, love, forgiveness, and vulnerability.

CLOSE
is what we generally are: near happiness, near to another, close to leaving, near to tears, close to God, near to despairing, near being done, close to saying something, or near to success, and even, with the best sense of complete satisfaction, close to providing the whole thing up.
Our human essence lies not in arrival, however in being practically there, we are creatures who are on the method, our journey a series of impending anticipated arrivals. We live by automatically measuring the inverse ranges of our distance: an intimacy calibrated by the vulnerability we feel in quiting our sense of separation.
To exceed our regular identities and become closer than close is to lose our sense of self in momentary delight, a form of arrival that only opens us to deeper forms of intimacy that blur our fixed, managing, surface area identity.
To consciously become close is a bold form of unilateral disarmament, a chancing of our arm and our love, a determination to threat our love and an unconscious statement that we might be equivalent to the inescapable loss that the vulnerability of being close will bring.
People do not find their essence through fulfillment or eventual arrival however by staying close to the way they like to travel, to the method they hold the conversation between the ground on which they stand and the horizon to which they go. What makes the rainbow beautiful, is not the pot of gold at its end, however the arc of its journey between occasionally, in between once in a while, between where we are now and where we want to go, illustrated above our unconscious heads in primary colour.
We are in effect, constantly, close; constantly near the supreme secret: that we are more genuine in our basic desire to discover a way than any destination we could reach: the step in between not comprehending that and understanding that, is as close as we get to joy.

When I am unfortunate, I like to envision myself becoming a tree. Branches that bend without breaking, fractal with possibility, reaching resolutely towards the light. Roots touching the web of belonging beneath the surface of the world, that majestic mycelial network nurturing and succoring and connecting tree to tree– connection so uncomplicated, so imperturbable, so totally free from the fragility of human relationships.