Chronesthesia is mental time travel. I'm not talking science fiction or magical thinking. It's the idea that mental time travel, both forward and backward- allows us to be aware of our place in linear time. Chronesthesia, theorizes psychologist Dr. Endel Tulving, gives humans the exclusive ability to recollect past events and plan for the future. He claims, "The kind of culture that Homo sapiens have created over the past 40,000 years or so can be produced only by individuals whose intelligence includes conscious awareness of the future in which they and their progeny will continue to live and survive."
Things happen while I'm painting that tickle my inquisitive brain. I find these things irresistible - the centering I feel in front of a canvas, the transcendent moment when surface and paint and motion begin to meld into something that pushes me farther than I thought I wanted to go, the unconventional documentation of real experience in nature, and, the notion of "escaping" time. I look up, three hours have passed, and it felt like three minutes. Not exactly what Tulving was talking about, but it got me thinking...
Does the state we humans now find ourselves in prove Tulving is mistaken? How do we really use our intelligence, and how do we evaluate human versus animal intelligence? Without a long lens, it's too soon to know. My own mental time travels are just optimistic projections. But new research is demonstrating that dogs and other animals possess the same type of intelligence Tulving called "uniquely human." Perhaps we need to think more about learning from other animals rather than about how superior we are to them.
What I do know is that the days have become excruciatingly short. Trees are laid bare to the bones, and the harvest is complete. Like other animals, it's time for us to gather together. Not necessarily to migrate or hibernate, but to create an attentive "now" - to be active and grateful, to celebrate family and friends and food, and the abundant Earth that sustains us. Happy Thanksgiving!
The paintings on this page are a selection from my recent Seeing Time sequence. You can see more here.
Artist and naturalist Michelle Louis has a vigorous curiosity about the natural world. She walks with intention in wild places at least 1,200 miles yearly, much of it on the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. She makes art documenting her experience along the way and in her studio.