A friend of mine and artist that I follow, Prina Shah, wrote in her blog about Sublime this week.  The first thing I thought of, was Sublime Pie (recipe by Raw Food Karen Bartz)! It’s a raw food version of Key Lime Pie that I often make for friends and family and have them guess what’s in it.  Of course, she wasn’t talking about food. 

In Search of Sublime   by: Prina Shah (blog)

This week I had brunch with a Canadian friend who told me about her trip back home. It was great to hear her stories! Driving through Tofino, in B.C, she said that she was struck by awe at the sight of the huge 250+ foot cedar trees towering over her along the roadside. She said it made her feel tiny and in wonder at such beauty. It got me questioning what it is about nature and the sublime that we seek so much in our lives…

For most of us our day is structured. A standard day for most would consist of the basic acts of; waking up, eating breakfast, working, eating lunch, finishing work, eating dinner and sleeping. Also not to mention the constant barrage of technological notifications whether it be emails, text messages or the time we spend faffing around on social media sites. This would generally be recipe for one’s week, give or take a few activities here and there.

When we imagine a ‘free’ life, free of the above listed daily grind and the drudgery of it all, free from the limitations of these time imposed activities, we dream of going away to somewhere tropical or to the countryside, a different scene, somewhere to relax and to soak in the entire world around us. We seek to watch a sunset, climb a mountain, go hiking – be at one with nature and to appreciate the sublime.

So what is the sublime? Alain de Botton says “The sublime is a feeling provoked by certain kinds of landscape that are very large, very impressive and dangerous. Places like the wide-open oceans, the high mountains, the polar caps. The Sinai Desert, the Grand Canyon. These places do all sorts of things to us. It’s interesting that around the end of the 18th century, people started to say that the feeling that these places provoke in us is a recognizable one and universal one — and a good one. This feeling was described as the feeling of the sublime. There are all sorts of theories about what exactly is needed to have the experience of the sublime. But gathering them all together, essentially what lies at the center of the experience is a feeling of smallness. You are very small and something else is very big… You are very vulnerable in the face of something else.”

These places are non threatening, they assert grandness over us and are breath taking.Viewing the sublime is a stark reminder of our fragility and morality and reminds us how little all that we think matters really does matter in the wider scheme of things.

I am lucky to be living in such a stunning place as Western Australia which is full of the sublime; being five minutes away from the Indian Ocean and having the most striking sunsets most evenings. Getting away from it all can be as simple as keeping my eyes open to all that is around me and  taking everything in. Some people find such a feeling from gardening, surfing, running.

Artist Andy Goldsworthy works with and within the natural environment. He uses natural materials and creates ephemeral sculptures to highlight the ever evolving facets of nature and the eco systems around us. His work is simple, yet detailed and contains elements of the sublime in every piece he works on. He aims for his ‘touch’ to look into the heart of nature; he says “I take the opportunity each day offers: if it is snowing, I work in snow, [in autumn] it will be leaves; a blown over tree becomes a source of twigs and branches.”

How do you get your fix of the sublime? Are you from Western Australia? Do you know of any such grand places to go visit? Do you feel that it is necessary to have a dose of the sublime in your life?

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For me, I need it. It makes me a better person and informs my work – whether it be my artwork and whatever else I produce. It reminds me of a poem I am very fond of titled Leisure by William Henry Davies which discusses care as in the old meaning being worries and time as a limitation to our lives.

Here is Leisure by William Henry Davies:

Leisure by W.H. Davies

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this is if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.