I (unknowingly) celebrated Earth Day this morning with a nice spin through the hills before work. Well, I think I was on Earth. Sometimes when I take a step back from the images and observe them at face value it’s hard to tell on what planet they were taken, especially this morning as the coastal fog was just beginning to burn off as I rode.
While I watched the fog evaporate I recalled an essay written by Barry Lopez that I had read in National Geographic magazine a few years ago. Though he was writing specifically about a series of images taken of the permafrost landscapes of the northern latitudes and the massive changes that are occurring there, I often think of his words while I’m out riding here in more southerly climes. Take a look at the article (if only to view the images of polygons and pingoes) but in case you’re too lazy to click on it I’ve excerpted a few of the passages below.
I guess that makes me lazy too. Which reminds me: next post I need to finish my Rovaniemi story as it was just starting to get fun.
“The world is beautiful, in many unfathomable ways. In our hurrying, though, we frequently miss what is beautiful around us, in the same way that we forget from time to time what we want our lives to mean. Just to stay afloat in the modern world, many of us reluctantly choose detachment from the constant stimulus. We even turn away from beauty, as if it were another thing we had had too much of.”
“Over several decades of travel, I have often met people who were profoundly intimate with the places in which they lived. Usually they were hunters, hunter-gatherers, subsistence farmers, or pastoralists, people who had to know precisely where they were, physically, all the particulars of it, if they were going to keep their preferred way of life intact. In conversation, I found the fine points they were attuned to fascinating, but more so the pattern of their knowledge, their skill at arranging myriad details in a pattern that could be recognized, remembered, and put to use. It is exhilarating to encounter knowledge this intimate. Most of us in the modern world have nothing to compare with it, except a working knowledge of the infrastructure of our own highly technical civilization. To see and appreciate, to be immersed for a lifetime in patterns that are not of your own making, that is a different order of things.”
“My guess would be that someone someday will trace the roots of modern human loneliness to a loss of intimacy with place, to our many breaks with the physical Earth. We are not out there much anymore. Even when we are, we are often too quick to take things in. A member of the group who insists on lingering is “holding everyone else up.” I think about this kind of detachment from the physical world frequently, because human beings, generally, seem to long for a specific place, a certain geography that gives them a sense of well-being”
“The photographs say the Earth is profound and revealing, but in these opening years of the 21st century the nature of the Earth’s beauty is changing.
The photographs are asking, What do you think? Years from now, they ask, what will it mean to live in earthly beauty?”