Hell is the absence of other people
The blossom on the cherry trees seems a distant memory. A month ago? Six months ago? A year ago? The state of suspended animation has eroded a sense of linear time. The days will turn soon, darkness will begin to re-establish itself. A hotel has new boards outside advertising its Christmas fare. As though a year has been written off, struck from the record: talk has turned to 2021. “Autumnal,” would say Tom Stoppard, who caught the mood of such times in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead
Autumnal – nothing to do with leaves. It is to do with a certain brownness at the edges of the day… Brown is creeping up on us, take my word for it… Russets and tangerine shades of old gold flushing the very outside edge of the senses… deep shining ochres, burnt umber and parchments of baked earth-reflecting on itself and through itself, filtering the light. At such times, perhaps, coincidentally, the leaves might fall, somewhere, by repute. Yesterday was blue, like smoke
In the play No Exit, the French existentialist writer Jean Paul Sartre presents the life of perdition as one in which people can do no more than look on from outside as years and decades slip past. The condemned watch as the world with which they were familiar, people, lives, places, slips from sight. Time like an ever-rolling streams bears all its own away, and there is not the possibility of retaining a single second of that which has passed.
Autumnal is when there is a darkness in the days, even in early June. It is those times when there is a certain brownness at the edge of the day, not through the passage of the seasons, but through the passing of people. Brownness at the edges is that mood of decline and decay unavoidably evoked by the absences.
The cherry trees line the avenue through the municipal cemetery. The grass is ill-cut this year, there is no caretaker to ensure the former standard of the final residences of those who rest here, no-one to clear the dead grass or to trim the surrounds.
Were there the capacity to harness emotional energy, then the countless thousands whose pain is captured here would fuel an entire world.
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