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Part 4, Beyond Postcards: Drowning in Earth-Cracks

It was an odd and pleasant experience to walk into the "breaks" near Socorro, NM; and of course that means I have to try to explain it. After all, if I don't think about and write about odd and powerful experiences, what should I write about?

I don't know if most readers caught it, but during the discussion of my last post on this topic, history was quietly made: one of the outdoors-blogosphere's most notorious and incorrigible optical-sybarites (grin) admitted that a breathtakingly beautiful, 1200-foot-high, sheer vertical, redrock cliff is not necessarily 1.3333 times as breathtakingly beautiful as an identical cliff that is only 900 feet high.

It is time to be a good sport and move on. I will nobly resist the tendency to be greedy by also trying to get him to admit that:
  • We should stop calling things beautiful when they are just freakishly large, and therefore have been made into a national park.
  • The freakishly large is certainly entertaining, but only in a cheap and vulgar sort of way. National parks are "beautiful" in the same sense that a 16-year-old boy, looking at porn, thinks that a certain human body is "sexy" just because it has anatomical parts that are freakishly large. 
  • The true outdoorsman and nature-lover should play "Gulliver's Travels" on his outings.
In fact I have reread about half of Gulliver's Travels since realizing that was partly responsible for the fun I was having walking up those neck-high, slot canyon-like arroyos. 

But there was another effect that benefited from the topographic features being the same size as the human body. The effect would have been weakened if those slot canyons were drastically smaller or larger than the human body. In that sense, it was almost an anti-Gulliver-ian experience.

Walking into those slots, upwards towards the mountain range, was like "drowning." Ahaa, that's it! Perhaps, as a youngster, the reader has had the experience of walking out into deeper and deeper water in a lake or ocean. It wasn't such a big deal until the water was up to your mouth or nose. Then you became fearful of every small wave that assaulted your safety. Your feet were still touching the lake or ocean floor, but there was so little force on your feet that you really could not move along anymore.

Something similar happens when you are sea kayaking. Let's say you are in one of the Great Lakes on a windy day. The waves might be only 3 feet high from trough-to-crest, but your eyes are only that high above the water. So, in the trough, you look around you and see only a wall of water -- all sight of the shoreline has disappeared. You are so puny compared to the immensity of the energy in all those waves. It can be frightening for a landlubber.

This example illustrates how important it is to outgrow the nature-porn of national parks (and other tourist traps) and focus on your mood, your susceptibility, and the intensity of the subjective experience when you're adventuring outdoors.


Tesaje said…
I reject your proposition that there must be an either or. I enjoy the hugeness of massive geological places as well as the beauty of the small ones. There is no reason to denigrate those who enjoy the big things to point out how many small natural things are beautiful. There is beauty to be found almost everywhere if one cares to look and appreciate. And life is much more pleasing to find the beauty in it.
I'd love to comment, but I'm boycotting your blog!
Nature Porn Lover
Mark, boycotting? After I complimented you for finally admitting to a Great Truth? Geesh, what does it take to keep people happy?
Tesaje, where do people get such ideas: denigrate? I have no interest in denigrating individuals who live in Darkness and Sin. (grin)

But I have no reluctance to denigrate false ideas.

A blogger should be like the guy doing the serve in tennis or ping pong. He's supposed to deliver a good snappy serve with lots of spin. The guy returning the serve isn't supposed to say, "Why did he serve it so hard. He must be a mean man. If he was a nice person, he would have just done a lob serve to put the ball into play. Now my feelings are hurt."
Teri said…
I like your reply to Tesaje:

"A blogger should be like the guy doing the serve in tennis or ping pong. He's supposed to deliver a good snappy serve with lots of spin. The guy returning the serve isn't supposed to say, "Why did he serve it so hard. He must be a mean man. If he was a nice person, he would have just done a lob serve to put the ball into play. Now my feelings are hurt."

Grow up boys.....
Boys will be boys - Men and their EGOS.

Tesaje said…
Just to clarify - my feeling are in no way hurt. Where did you get that? I simply reject your supposition that to love the grand beauties means one must fail to see the small beauties. I also reject that old trope "boys will be boys" - why should men get a pass?
Sondra said…
I will simply fall back on the old adage, "beauty is in the eye of the beholder"!
XXXXX said…
I can see that you and Mark began to enjoy your little joust, once the initial fallout settled down. If there is a serious note to this entry (I mean, besides delivering a friendly jab to Mark) then perhaps it's worth noting that either search, for the large and magnificent or the small and intense, both equally serve the purpose of occupying and entertaining the mind. Each suggests some form of heroism which seems to be at the bottom of the adventuresome spirit, no matter what specific detail it might take. We are no longer seeking out new land to cultivate. Just as we all enjoyed roleplaying cowboys and Indians, etc. as children, so this adventuresome spirit among the RV population seems to be. A misplaced sense of heroism.
George, we've been taking friendly jabs for 6 years. But your statement about "both equally serve" sounds like diplomacy, not philosophy.

"no matter what specific detail it might take." Detail? Acting like a mass-tourist is not just a detail. It is a surrender.
XXXXX said…
I'm sure your entire readership is thoroughly aware of your opinion here. If you don't mind, I take this debate more on a symbolic level. Here's the point: What you often do on this blog, to use your words from above, is look at all of life focusing on mood, susceptibility, and intensity of the subjective experience. Those very things you argued for when observing one's physical environment. I think that's the bigger argument. Those who look for the big and beautiful don't have the same experience.
It is true that your blog is one of the few to do this (about many issues) and it is why I am a loyal reader. We tend to make our points in life by contrasting opposites. Sometimes it takes the issue off track. I think it is hard to adequately describe the jist of intense subjective experience. I often feel I have to read between the lines, but it's there.
Now I know I'm a serious sort and don't really mind your jousting at all. Just want to throw my 2 cents in. I think sometimes a person can lose the ability to get in that place between the lines if they are surrounded by too much stimuli, hence, often it is folks who lead solitary lives who seem most connected to it. I'm hopin' that Yuma isn't suffocating your usual style.