What makes you tiptoe?

What makes you tiptoe? I don’t mean when you want to spring unpleasant surprises on the unwary, none of my readers would be involved in that sort of thing. No, I mean, what makes you tiptoe involuntarily, like when you are exploring an old church and wander into the chancel (the bit behind the rail down the front, the bit where God lives)?

I have a bit of a thing for wandering around old country graveyards, the kind of place that consists of a tiny stone church, a name on a map, a clutch of elm trees, and nothing else but rolling hills. The Australian countryside is washed with such places, witness to the failed dream of a genuine Australian engagement with living in our place, high-water marks of the human tide that has now retreated to our coastal cities. In such places, it can seem as though everyone who ever lived there was buried there as well. I’m attracted to the stillness and solemnity, they have both a rootedness and a wistfulness that reinforces my sense of being a traveller. All this paragraph is a bit of a digression…

One of the more uncomfortable problems of old graveyards is the fact that often age has removed the clear boundaries between grave plots. Sometimes you don’t realise until too late that you’ve just trampled upon someone’s dear departed. When I do realise, I actually get a sensation in my feet, a podiatrical blush, and I quickly tiptoe to the safe piece of grass that runs between the headstones. Weird, isn’t it? In a small country graveyard, where even the living have passed on, and the dead are probably grateful for the attention, I’m conscious that I must not place my feet in an invisible 6×2 rectangle in an otherwise indistinguishable paddock.

Here’s a step toward a thesis: my moment of recognition in the graveyard should be taken seriously in constructing a theory of space.

3 thoughts on “What makes you tiptoe?

  1. What do you do with a columbarium? Are you comfortable leaning on the wall, or even sitting on it? I ask to see if it's different when the remains are ash.

    (And, by the way, I think the bit behind the magic rails is the head of the chancel. The chancel, I understand, is both sides of the rail.)


  2. are you reading bachelard? can't remember if he has anything to do with what you're talking about, except that he was on about space and I really enjoyed reading it.


  3. Interesting. It reminds me of debates about the difference between 'space' as a kind of emptiness and 'place' as meaningful space. Perhaps you tiptoe in response to an alertness to (and a willing participation in maintaining) the shared meaningfulness of a space/place?

    While it might feel involuntary, I suspect it's a deep-seated cultural (and therefore constructed) response.
    Sometimes, you may need to be educated when and where it is appropriate to tiptoe.


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