The afternoon had passed to a ghostly gray. She was struck by the immensity of things, so much water and sky and forest, and after a time it occurred to her that she’d lived a life almost entirely indoors. Her memories were indoor memories, fixed by ceilings and plastered white walls. Her whole life had been locked to geometries: suburban rectangles, city squares. First the house she’d grown up in, then dorms and apartments. The open air had been nothing but a medium of transit, a place for rooms to exist.
Concrete you can mold, you can press it into – after all, you haven’t any straight lines in your body. Why should we have straight lines in our architecture? You’d be surprised when you go into a room that has no straight line – how marvelous it is that you can feel the walls talking back to you, as it were.
There are no boundaries in the real Planet Earth. No United States, no Russia, no China, no Taiwan. Rivers flow unimpeded across the swaths of continents. The persistent tides, the pulse of the sea do not discriminate; they push against all the varied shores on Earth.
Was it just fear? the voices wonder. We were fearful in the best of times; how could we cope with the worst? So we found the tallest walls and poured ourselves behind them. We kept pouring until we were biggest and strongest, elected the greatest generals and found the most weapons, thinking all this maximalism would somehow generate happiness. But nothing so obvious could ever work.
I wrote a great deal of a novel, Winter’s Tale, on the roof of a Brooklyn Heights tenement on Henry Street. I was a technical climber, and now and then I would put down my manuscript and get up to walk along parapets and climb walls and chimneys.
Every time I imagine a garden in an architectural setting, it turns into a magical place. I think of gardens I have seen, that I believe I have seen, that I long to see, surrounded by simple walls, columns, arcades or the facades of buildings – sheltered places of great intimacy where I want to stay for a long time.
A narrative is like a room on whose walls a number of false doors have been painted; while within the narrative, we have many apparent choices of exit, but when the author leads us to one particular door, we know it is the right one because it opens.
“There are four kinds of people in the world, Ms. Harper. Those who build walls. Those who protect walls. Those who breach walls. And those who tear down walls. Much of life is discovering who you are. When you find out, you also realize there are places you can no longer go, things you can no longer do, words you can no longer say.”