The roads I have walked on; 24th December 2017
I believe nature has a grand door like death. You have to knock at it to start a conversation. So when you see men and women standing at dangerous edges, looking into the vast space with a thoughtfulness in their eyes, I reckon they are invited for supper by the all-seeing nature.
It must be an honor. But as a matter of fact, you don’t need to stand at “dangerous edges” to start a conversation. You might as well be walking past a garbage bin and may happen to see a tree with a color that seems rare and special and all sorts of magical and then, right then you are having what I have already called a ‘conversation’.
But it is not a conversation. It is foolish to see it merely so. It is a semiotic system rather obscure I would say. The more you are involved, the more you understand it.
On December 24 2017, I had a profound talk and I did not even need to open Tolkein or Keats–people who were much more benevolent in this discourse than I ever will be (Yes I was carrying the big mammoth Lord of the Rings on trekking!). Well, the profound talk began with a lot of cheerful cursing (in my third person monologue). You see, I am not really athletic and although I enjoy trekking, I’ve barely have had much past experience with it. But to walk alone was something brave I was doing. The ground fell miles and miles below beyond my right foot and silence was no longer a phantom as he is in the town.
It was a cloudy day and the outer anatomy of the mountain began to trace like a map in my mind. What clothes it had on? Winter. The cold brown dust and gnarling trees shooting out of the mountain like its nails, and still ever so glorious? It was strange to me. I pondered the meaning of beauty and what was my ideal for it. But it did not matter. Thoughts evaporated from my head, up beyond my woolen cap and were eaten by the sky that looked unreal. I guess, nature serves mind in its invitation. It also occurred to me that the mountains–over which I walked on and the ones in front or adjacent to it–were wrapped in ribbons, as if knitted in a sweater. On plains, the only way you reach the 4th floor of the building is by the mechanism of stairs installed inside the building itself. But isn’t it absolutely ridiculous that you may climb the sand hill beside a the mountain house and all of a sudden you are above someone’s terrace. And I kept thinking about ribbons. How the mountain lets you in. Upon it are fossils and scars of battles unknown. How long will it stand after I will die?
These are the questions, I’m sure, that you can easily pick up from a geography book but the walk, I think (in the spirit of David Thoreau) it is also about the science of interiority. What valleys run past your lungs and what river sings in your heart. So I think that the mountain is a ritual. To me it is a wall that you put your ear to, a wall thick as a world, and deep inside there is nothing but the beating heart that is life. When you put your ear to it, your life begins to mimic it.
When I walked, I walked past the lumps in the dusty ribbon, the dangerous launch of a tongue that rolled out in a sheer power of the will of the landscape. Good small passersby who were small in an ironic comparison to the vast civilization of nature. And everything was so far but close. A man who clipped at trees for firewood, three roads below mine, was like a neighbor with a common wall. The waterfall near the dam roared at me from miles away, its icy blue like a pebble in the sand. Apart from occasional odor of watery caves and moss, there was no smell in the air at all. The cold bit the tip of my nose whenever I tried to look for it. I wanted to sit but was excited about what I may find next. Did I ever wanted to turn back?
As a matter of fact I did. The mountain behind was very primordial and my mind’s home for no man but Yetis. It was all buttered up in snow and glowed mysteriously in cloudy sunlight (sorry for unnecessary metaphorical suspense in the beginning there but that’s how I blog). It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. But sad to me (not in the poetic rumor that all beautiful things must be sad) was the idea that I kept thinking this scene is like a drawing room scenery or an instagram picture,that I cannot translate right there and then. Like my walk near the summer river and mild flower beds in June 2017, I suddenly remembered having the exact same thoughts then too. A friend also echoed them without my participation. What weird urge to find something so magnificent and to somehow locate it in trivial matter of life? Yet I made peace with the urge. I tell you, you should too. You should forgive your friends who take too many pictures as you must forgive a friend who must decide to paint the land carried away by a similar urge. Thanks to my Visual Arts paper last semester, I can understand this urge better. Velasquez’s Las Meninas, for one, gave me the cleverest of all examples. Las Meninas had been a mystery to scholars for a long time. It is a painting interrupted. The painting captures the exact moment when animation of the maids, the clowns, the princess and a painting painter is brought to a sudden halt when the royal couple walks into the room. There is a mechanism to see them in this act too. Behind the subjects is a mirror which faintly captures King and Queen in this act of interruption. But wait a second, does it now? Most scholars disagree. The reflection in the mirror is the reflection of painter’s ongoing painting and NOT the royal couple. So my point is? My point (which I am borrowing from people who do long studies of paintings) is that truth is stranger than fiction. The royal couple are much more brilliant than a painter can ever paint (a painting is a mirror you see, so Velasquez is literally indicating to that) as is seen through the effect on the faces of the subjects interrupted.
Painting by Diego Velázquez, 1656
My point being? When I walk the mountains and take them away as a memory, I wish, I wish, It remained as glorious as it was when I saw it. It is a Shakespearean effort to capture the now-time.
This urge is the basis of ‘conversation’. The idea that you want to carry it in your hearts in its true form. But I think we remain what we are, foreigners. However, some people are less foreigners than us. Those who live and breathe the mountains and call it their home. Where villages have their own problems and celebrations and mountains merely happen to drop in the beverage they call life. The same is true for where you live. No wonder I love my city (in a landscape and people way) even when people escape to mountains and the problems never disappear.
My 24th December walk was profound. I encountered dangerous edges, a phantom mountain goat, hotel-running smart lady with apple red cheeks, nice people from my own city, crunch of my own foot and the voice in my own heart. I think it is very important to hear this voice as it happens to melt into other voices and then you can’t tell which one is yours. Right now it is in the act of writing for me, but at other times it is in humming, cooking, jogging and even simply walking (not-that-simple-actually) upon the never-ending ribbons of the mountains.