* Beauty is simply reality seen with the eyes of love – Rabindranath Tagore *
“It takes an effort to not take such views for granted!”
That remark was made quietly, in a voice suitably laced with almost religious awe, by Dr. Dominic Blunt as we stood in silence on one of the many rooftops of buildings that comprise the premises of Karsha Gompa in Ladakh. The Karsha monastery is poised high above to one side of the township of Padum situated on the banks of river Zanskar. The grandeur of the landscape defies description. Such views subdue viewers, and have the power of contemplation in them. Dominic had a reason to say what he said. Our group had started our hike from Darcha situated in Lahaul in the state of Himachal Pradesh in the Indian Himalaya. Darcha is on the southern side of the main Himalayan ‘ridge’ that runs in a long, long arc all the way from the Karakorams in the west to the mountains in Arunachal Pradesh and beyond in the east. We had ‘hopped’ over that ridge by crossing the 5,091 m. / 16,703 ft. high pass called Shingo La (la: pass). That 10-day walk had taken us through amazing scenery, to put it mildly. Dominic’s remark made sense in the context of how one can then easily become blasé about such staggering splendor through daily association.
Aisles in Art Galleries
It’s a given that hiking happens in some of the most beautiful locales on Planet Earth. In one of my posts on Instagram I write, ‘Trails in mountains… They are like aisles in art galleries.’ Sometimes when walking on a trail, there are these extended periods when I keep seeing appealing frames everywhere in spots or scenes. Whether it is a passing rock surface or the corner of a switchback or a distant mountain slope, stones and boulders and grass and flowers and trees and mountain slopes coalesce like jigsaw pieces to form appealing compositions. Light and shadow complete the magic and I have to then pause to take a photo or file the vision away for a sketch to be drawn later, if ever.
What the eye sees…
I have doodled and drawn pencil sketches and line drawings all my life but have somehow never gotten into landscape painting. But lately, I have started seeing these swathes of colour come together in almost impressionistic compositions on mountain slopes and even forest foliage. If this ‘trend’ in me continues then I should soon go be going through successive phases to join the tribe of those few that have developed a taste for art that depicts the world, um, ‘non-really’. I don’t think I am being sarcastic (despite knowing the fact that many collectors apparently acquire costly art to invest in rather than gaze at it in rapture) because I enjoy looking at folk art and pictures of ancient art which tend to depict reality in an interpretative manner. Be that as it may, I certainly am enjoying this change in me!
Of lines and shapes…
When thinking of such stuff I am invariably reminded of what I had read long time back in the book ‘Summits and Secrets’ by Kurt Diemberger, a mountaineering legend:
‘Every climber knows the thrill … the unique inexplicable tension, which the regular shapes of the mountain world awake in him: huge pyramids, enormous rectangular slabs, piled-up triangles of rock, white circles, immense squares – the thrill of simplicity of shape and outline and the excitement of mastering them, to an unbelievable extent, by his own efforts, his own power …
Makes one wonder…
Does such loveliness exist irrespective of being appreciated as such or does it need the eye of the beholder to manifest at all? Topics like Quality and Aesthetics are in the realm of philosophy and psychology, but one does not need to fathom the underlying workings of the human mind to make sense of the feelings and emotions stirred in adventurers as they go about their esoteric pastime. Beauty outside appeals, and it inspires beauty within. I believe that the astonishing beauty that surrounds adventurers who necessarily have close interaction with their environment has a big impact on their psyche. I believe that it is one of the driving forces that make adventurers go back again and again, to seek that which can be attempted only out there and in the process bathe in Nature’s abundant beauty.
Beauty in things big and small
I guess one can see beauty in a lot of things, whether it is in the elegant curve of a blade of grass or in the indescribable shape of a mountain, in the grace of an adult as they walk or the way an infant sits with its back straight, or in the effortless manner a singer hits the right notes or the flowing movement of a climber tackling the crux of a climb. Our species is blessed with the gift of conscious appreciation of such contemplations and understanding of how things work and why, which adds a deeper layer to our enjoyment.
As I walked away from Karsha Gompa that day I found myself reflecting on Dominic’s remark and remember thinking one can extend that to life! The reverse of the quote written at the beginning can probably be true then: that if one sees beauty in our reality then it is possible to love that reality.
Life seems so beautiful when in the Himalayas and it changes so quickly when we return to the plains and the humdrum of our daily lives.
True. Making everyday interesting (‘not take each day for granted’) is tough… Ah well! Thanks for writing in 🙂
Appreciate the insight about how the big picture beauty is translating into abstract art in your mind. I am probably in the majority, who continued to value actual landscapes being prettier than abstract art–but I can now see how it could evolve into what others might find incomprehensible.
On the point of appreciation of beauty–the main thoughts which comes to mind is that for people who are able to be out in the wilderness–they are already pre-disposed to look for it and hence are taking the efforts to get out. Its the education/exposure/opportunities that need to happen, probably from a very early age, for more people to see this. If there were a nature appreciation/wilderness skills class in urban areas as part of regular schooling–maybe that’s one step towards more people realizing why there is a need to protect our planet.
So true, Nakul! I am aware of how there have been efforts to make outdoor education in some form or the other an integral part of schooling. It would really help in enriching children’s lives if being in the outdoors is not viewed as only ‘extra-curricular’… Thanks for writing in!