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The Earth

* Gustave Courbet, The Stonebreakers (1849)

(Courbet’s paintings seem eternally be covered by a layer of dusts- such effect is highlighted when the subject matter is some labour that engenders dusts- breaking stones. Long being assumed a Realist but unarguably weathering from the Romantic School, Courbet ingeniously shrouded the unideal in a vaguely idealized veneer- while one man refuses to face the viewers and the other has his hat rim closely down to the nose tip- neither of them is granted the permission of unfolding his facial expression. The hide-and-seek relation between the objects and the viewers forms a rather mystified sensation to the latters. At any moment the stonebreakers motion can seem stealthy, while something hideous seems to emerge anytime out of those piles of stones, like smoke.)

Due to a minor, inconsequential injury I am temporarily-handicapped and confined to a wheelchair, facing a window that opens up a view of every best moment of the altering seasons. These days reading is superfluous, especially when one’s mind is so bent upon an unlikely speedy recovery, and a final liberation of limbs, of the whole body. Thankfully, in such involuntary moment I still earn my unfettered heart, which records in notes everything that passes through its witness. It is until this moment do I realize how a pair of miraculously keener eyes acts as compensation for my invalid situation. Every motion and object, living or not, fails to filter out of my notice. My eyes then begin to draw in a panoramic scenery despite how flatly the window is obliged to paint the outdoor picture. It is often within the most beautiful pictures, the ones that I most appreciate, that a raven can be seen splitting across the sky, mocking apparently in some indecipherable language, and advancing behind are crowds and lumps of thickening clouds.

The picture I snapped that day was not further from the usual ones I saw on the other days- a barren open field occupying almost the majority of one’s vision, gloomy trees embellishing the thin line of horizon, pale sky fusing with menacing red topping it off. A pair of young lovers invaded the peacefulness and with their reckless lovemaking an imperturbed mundanity was at length penetrated. You could always tell when the surrounding was baffled, or at least, aware, of such intrusion- the sparse grass gave a slight jerk, trees darkened their leaves as if armours were well-donned, but the sky remained immobile, and it was during then the first time I heard the caw of a raven, although its whereabouts was still invisible to me. Neither was the bird’s fleeting form visible to the couple, for their fondling and huddling proceeded on notwithstanding.

It is always possible that the blandest wind should resort to mindless violence when the patience for its humdrum nature becomes intolerable. I could smell in the air that something was going to happen; something ominous was imminent. The gentle cooing of the lovers soon amplified itself into heated arguments, and when words were proved ineffable for unleashing their belligerence, physical force set in. I would spare the details of what atrocious scene I then witnessed and wrapped up the incident by concluding that the girl disappeared with the boy, apparently a victor but with a defeated look on, stole away and eternally out of my eyeshot.

What was so grotesque of such incident was the close resemblance with one I witnessed, or, more or less encountered, a long time ago. I had long divined such memory was put behind or laid dormant under some inviolable field. My forgetfulness was not deliberate, for whenever I mentioned the past incident to anybody who should be relevant, those reckless ones would always reassure me that such and such things never took place before. The sound and colour of the memory soon wore off; its shadowy present no longer haunted me, and its existence, no longer an issue to be doubted or questioned.

The remembrance was rekindled years later, now in my most restrained situation. I again resulted in executing what I did years before- when the man forced his sweetheart down unto the ground and tried to dig a hole with her already droopy head, my voice of alarm and astonishment went along with his motion. Deeper and deeper the man persisted shoving down the lifeless corpse, while my voice also persevered. Together we effectively laid hidden under the earth the objects we once possessed, and resolved not to think twice about it, and that went effectively too.


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