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Improvisation in March

Hombourg (France) Rhone–Rhine Canal
Rue de la Hardt
Sunday, 29 March 2015

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I walk fast. Snow still lies on slopes, the ground is still winter wet. I’ve set off from Basel to Mulhouse, along the canal – on a walk, a marathon. I’m in search of spring sensations, of white and pink-blossomed cherry trees, of heavy scents and bees mad with joy. But it is not yet so far. First the willow catskins bloom – and, as always, the swans. No fragrance stands out of this air, the nose is as directionless as the asparagus inside the tarpaulin trying to find the right direction. Pairs of mallards sail through the reeds along the bank, diving ducks with black coats and little white heads paddle hastily away from the bank with bucking movements.

I walk fast. Raindrops hammer silent rings onto the petrol-coloured leather of the canal. The creaking of the large trees is not yet accompanied by rustling – some roots squeak like young animals in pleasure or pain. A small oak tree still retains leaves from the autumn as if it does not trust the spring. In the wind it rattles with a thousand fine chains. The fluting of the blackbirds, sitting high above by their nests, is repeatedly blown away by squalls – the ravens however carry away their raucous squawks all on their own. Now and then the breeze makes my hood flap.

I walk fast. Nothing here attracts the senses emphatically: no colour, no perfume stands out. Nothing distracts from other things, everything seems ordinary, yet everything is constantly in flux, without pause, in motion, not even remotely comprehensible. My flight along the canal fits into this. Because existence is a hurtling-off – and I sense that this race of the moving body is a harmonious expression of my experience of the world. But it doesn’t fit into this scheme of things that I prefer to consider reality to be of a reliable significance, something in which not everything constantly passes and drifts away.

I cling to the idea that in life one can stand quite like one can in a room – or like in a picture in which one can go around in peace and engage here and there in small improvements. Almost all forms of representations of life stand in curious opposition to the dynamics with which we experience ourselves on this planet. Whether it is writing or painting or some other imaging method, it compulsorily portrays life as being somewhat static, as a state – even music and film do not escape from this because their movement is tied to repetition and therefore just another form of standstill. Only improvisation, bound with dedication to the inspiration of the moment, can portray life with a certain dynamism – and perhaps my race along the bank of the canal is exactly that: an improvisation, an improvisation in March.

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First Publication: 1-4-2015