On Wordsworth’s Spots of Time
“Spots of Time”, a short segment in book XII of Wordsworth’s prelude, shaped how I relate to life itself. When I was asked for a Visual Rhetoric course to create a visual articulation of a text I found somehow engaging, I decided on this excerpt. The image in this post is what I imagine this section of the poem would look like if it were a visual construct. You can read the poem below, followed by my reflections on the process of creating the image.
From William Wordsworth’s The Prelude 12.208-218 (1805 edition):
There are in our existence spots of time,
That with distinct pre-eminence retain
A renovating virtue, whence–depressed
By false opinion and contentious thought,
Or aught of heavier or more deadly weight,
In trivial occupations, and the round
Of ordinary intercourse–our minds
Are nourished and invisibly repaired;
A virtue, by which pleasure is enhanced,
That penetrates, enables us to mount,
When high, more high, and lifts us up when fallen.
The source for my visual articulation is William Wordsworth’s ‘Spots of Time’ passage, found in his Prelude, Book XII, lines 208 to 218. I first discovered this passage when taking the second part of a British Literature survey course while working on my undergraduate education degree. Michael Sharp, a kindly gentleman from Scotland, read the poem fragment in a soft voice, and I was immediately enthralled. I could suddenly, as he said, ‘See’. The poem spoke to me. Its message – at least the one it had for me, as poems speak differently to different individuals – was one of memory and remembrance. It taught me to look within for the energy to push forward when I felt downtrodden and to look for motivation when depressed. Although at the time the message, powerful as it was, went mostly unused as I felt most of the time as if I was soaring the highest I could, when I began graduate school – and specially after coming to Texas and leaving most of my family behind – its message began resonating quite strongly. I have since discovered that while Spots of Time is about memory, it’s also about nostalgia. It’s about how “back when I was young and cool things were better” and about the fictional narrative that we create around the hazy memories we have. It is this idea of memory and nostalgia and a past that is more historical fiction than an accurate memory that guided me as I created this visual articulation.
To create this image, the first thing that I did was find the images that I would use to compose it. I used two images of Wordsworth for obvious reason: he is the author of The Prelude. I wanted the image to reflect a state of being that transcended any single spot of time, so I looked for an image of the universe. To find the images, I used the Firefox web browser. I then overlapped the two Wordsworth images on top of the universe image and applied transparency filters to one of the layers using Paint.Net, a Photoshop-like open-source program. I felt that there was something missing, so I searched for another image of the universe – this time one with a bit of color. I placed that image on top of the two Wordsworth images and applied a transparency filter. I now had, so to speak, two Wordsworths sandwiched by two universes. The original universe image provided a dark back drop in which the two Wordsworth images could rest, as well as a starry “universe” feel. The second universe added a splash of color and swirling vortexes, which seemed to make the compiled image come alive.
Having completed the Wordsworth-Universe parallel, I proceeded to find images that I could include in the final visual. First, I searched for random images of people, including some “happy salad” images. I was going to fill the entirety of the image with random “spots of time” to show that everyone had something positive to remember and lift them up. Then, halfway into the process, I decided to use my own spots of time. I left a few random images and reconfigured the rest of the space to show some of my spots of time. To do this, I opened each image in Paint.Net, resized them, and pasted them into a new layer in the Spots of Time image. I used photographs of my wedding, my best friend’s wedding, presentations I have offered, friends from college, of myself playing Dance Dance Revolution, and even some screenshots from assorted video games. I found photographs of people I care for and love – friends, family, colleagues, others who have significantly impacted my life in a positive way – and included them. By the time I was done, I had traveled through many of my spots of time, thankful for the opportunity of having revisited these places in time again. Subconsciously, this might have been what I really wanted. Once I placed all the images in the adequate spaces, I proceeded to use a transparency filter. I now had what I had originally set out to create: a multi-layered image where memory and nostalgia (spots of time) melded with space and time and Wordsworth.
If one looks carefully at the image, it will become obvious that some “spots of time” are more clearly visible than others, but that all are blurry. This is part of what I wanted to accomplish. Because memory is hazy and we rarely remember things as they are, but as we want them to have been, I wanted it to be difficult, yet not impossible, to decode the visuals in the images. The astute observer will notice, however, that some of the images are impossible to distinguish beyond the fact that there are rough outlines. This was intended to represent early memories which humans tend to forget.
Given more time (or, honestly speaking, having had less responsibilities than I did this term) I would have used Prezi. I would have zoomed into Wordsworth’s eyes, and placed a clearly distinguishable memory – a most precious spot of time. This would have symbolized the notion that the eyes are the window to the soul.