A non-poet goes to the mountains
Reflections on my first ever trek, a meditation on poetry and Tolkien's description of mountains.
This is the first post of 2024 for Curiousect !
The only hope and wish I have for this year is that it is more creative than all of my previous years. I want to write and create more. Whether that’s recommendations, essays, reviews, videos or whatever. Anything.
I want it to be a creative year that I am happy with by December 31, 2024.
We’re starting with a video essay this time. This is a special video.
Sometime last month, I did my first ever Himalayan Trek with a wonderful group of people and made a ton of memories.
I think a part of my brain rewired itself after that experience. I wanted to write and share one aspect of it.
I've always been fascinated with the way writers and poets talk about nature. While I know their writing is beautiful, I never quite experienced nature the same way as they did.
This video is about how that changed, and an expression of my gratitude to all those poets who do the difficult work of putting into language our feelings.
It was extremely satisfying making this. Let me know what you thought!
Thanks for reading Curiousect!
I have always wanted to know what it is that poets see. Their view of nature is intricate.
What is it that they know that I don’t? How is it that they can perceive things on earth differently, from the way I do?
I am unaware what Mary Oliver went through in the woods, when she wrote:
Something whispered something
that was not even a word.
It was more like a silence
that was understandable.
I am oblivious to what Victoria Chang saw in a forest, when she writes
Every leaf that falls
never stops falling. I once
thought that leaves were leaves.
Now I think they are feeling,
in search of a place—
I have always thought about this line by Wendell Berry: “I come into the peace of wild things/ who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief.”
What was it that he was experiencing? What was going through his life at the time? To feel and then also write such a beautiful line.
I can't picture myself feeling the same thing. I didn’t think I could ever know what it is that these poets saw. It seems impossible to live through the same wonder that these writers did.
I’m reminded of a quote by John Green: “From the quark to the supernova, the wonders do not cease. It is our attentiveness that is in short supply, our ability and willingness to do the work that awe requires.”
I live in a fragmented reality. A distracted world. I am constantly overthinking about my future and always escaping into nostalgia. I carefully deconstruct every emotion I feel instead of being in them. I am running away from the present.
In the last few years, I haven’t spent time in nature with the same care as some of these writers. I avoid putting in the effort that awe requires.
I tried to change this by doing my first ever Himalayan trek last month in peak winters. Over the course of 4 exhausting and intense days, I think maybe, just maybe I was able to grasp what poets see.
I spent almost a week in the mountains and forests. Making the effort to experience awe. I was living very briefly, in a world I had never witnessed before.
I did not know forests could be so dense, yet soft. I never imagined mountains were so vast, tall and intricate. I never felt so small. I never felt the fear of standing at a cliff, while marveling at the moon bidding goodbye to the night. All at the same time.
Slowly, I started to pay attention to myself, and my surroundings in these days.
We walked through the forests, crossed river streams and rested at beautiful meadows.
It was quiet in the mountains.
Not the uneasy one you feel at work or when you are alone and anxious. This quiet was comfortable. Like Mary Oliver said, “a silence that was understandable”.
I saw the seeds of a flower that would bloom soon. The muddy and rocky paths gave way to moments of wonder. I walked on snow. The moss around me was informing me where the light was. I felt my heartbeat loudly. I witnessed leaves falling. Perhaps, in search of a place.
On the final day, I managed to make it to the Chandrashila summit. I was flooded with emotions. I saw a sea of mountain peaks all around me. I didn’t realize Tolkein was right when he described the mountains in LOTR. I didn’t know such a sight was possible.
At that moment, I thought “I get it, Mr. Berry. I do”.
The weight off my chest disappeared.
I wasn’t worrying about the future because there was no future to think about.
No doubts, burdens or responsibilities to contemplate.
All possible struggles and difficulties faded away into the horizon.
I am here, in the present. Utterly and completely astonished. Deeply in awe.
The forethought of grief is not taxing me.
And I think about the final line of Peace of Wild Things:
“For a time/I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.”
This was it for my first post for 2024.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, and feedback !
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