“How could we expect anyone else to understand the peculiar exhilaration that we drew from this bareness, when man’s natural tendency is to be attracted to everything in nature that is lush and fruitful?” (Herzog, 76/77)
Herzog contemplates this as he writes about overlooking the Great Barrier. I am the first to admit that I am a sucker for everything lush and fruitful. My favorite landscape hands down is a lush rainforest, where you feel so absorbed by life, by the immense excitement of living. I would much prefer to be surrounded by budding flowers, over-acrching trees and waterfalls than I would look out at a desert. Nevertheless when I read this quote I was able to view bareness in a different way. Herzog refers to the magnificence of the Great Barrier, these lone peaks that seem to rule over everything else.
We are always multi-tasking, always surrounded by multiple forms of stimulation. It is hard to separate out what we are seeing vs. what we are smelling vs. what we are hearing, feeling, or even what is before us vs. what we are creating in our minds. We therefore are so rarely able to genuinely enjoy the true essence of one sight, or one sound, or the brilliance of one thought. I have never been good at meditating, but I find the idea fascinating. To me, the solitude of bear nature is the closest comparison I can draw.
What came to mind reading this quote was the strange exhilaration I get from what I am going to call a pure silence. Not silence because everyone is working in the library, in fact not even silence meaning no noise, but the silence you get when you are the only human presence around. In the summer I love taking walks on the beach at sunset. I always spend a moment before I leave where I stand very still, and just listen to the waves, appreciating that I am allowed to share this moment with nature. The silence feels so soothing on my ears. When I read Herzog’s quote I realized that for the hiker, the lone mountain peak is their form of meditation. Just as dogs have a keen sense of smell to make up for their weak sight, the less we have going on the more we are able to enjoy it. Stopping is hard, when everything in society tells us to go, go, go, get as much done in as little time as possible. I can see now that up there in the mountains, just as on the beach, that pressure melts away, allowing us to perceive each sense to its full extent.