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How Can Anyone Say the San Juans are "Beautiful?"

Newbies to either this blog or to my disputer-in-chief, Box Canyon Blog, must wonder why two friends are always being "nasty" to each other on the subject of Beauty. Why can't we just be "nice?"  Well, can't two friends play tennis with each, and each try to win? Just think, the two contestants are hitting the ball in opposite directions. How awful! How negative!!!

I've just finished having another wonderful visit with friends in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado. The hiking was uniquely good. But don't think that having a good time there was effortless. For one thing, the San Juans are not beautiful. They are merely visually impressive in a freakish and unnatural sort of way.

How can we think of natural beauty without first thinking of nature? It is inescapable to me to see nature as the marriage of male and female characteristics. Primarily female. On one hike John Q and I went up the "Stairway to Heaven." It was on the edge of the San Juans, so we could see along a green river valley leading north to the Gunnison River. How healthy it is to see land that is good for something (!) besides rocky lunar-scapes and frozen alpine tundra.

The San Juans seldom have the gentle curves and high green pastures that I look for. But I did find one excellent example, again on the edge of the mountains, this time on the east side:

Ahh, what a relief to find a serried ridgeline/tree-line and a useful horse pasture in the high country!

The San Juan Mountains have the strutting and puffed-up look of a male weight-lifter posing. Many a 16-year-old lad would like to look like that, I suppose. But how could you call it beautiful?

There is a place for puffed-up male braggadocio, noise, and violence. It is the realm of the Sky where the angry, capricious, and unreliable male sky gods live.

Classic afternoon build-up over grasslands in the Southwest.

The characteristics of these male sky gods might not make for a very flattering list of adjectives. But they usually manage to "get the job done" on ol' Ma Nature:


There is a serious issue behind this type of (frivolous) disputation, particularly for a traveler or independent person: being too mainstream destroys your opportunities. Next time...


You are anything BUT "mainstream."
Oh, and I think your photos are decent today...not great but decent :)
My ad; your serve...
Box Canyon Mark
XXXXX said…
Mountains are the place where the prima material (the first matter, the original substance from which the universe was created and to which it will someday be returned to) is said to be found. Makes literal sense in that mountains all rose from that material which is well below our feet. Every new form comes from it so it holds all potential.
A mountain is the embodiment of cosmic forces and life. The rocks are bones, the streams are blood, the vegetation the hair and the clouds the breath.
On a spiritual level mountain tops represent the state of full consciousness. Pilgrimages up sacred mountains symbolize aspiration, renunciation of worldly desires, attaining to the highest states and ascent from the partial and limited to the whole and unlimited.
(From A Dictionary of Alchemical Imagery by L. Abraham and An Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Traditional Symbols by Cooper)
I personally don't think "beauty" is the relevant word to debate. Do you remember your posting when you argued for process over product? Seems to me that is more relevant. How can one be in and among mountains without being affected by their power, the power as briefly described above?
Have you ever thought where the material of your body has been before it was you? If Einstein is correct, that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, then every scratch of material that we are composed of has been in existence for all eternity and continues to move on to other places once it leaves us.
The beauty is in the process.
Tesaje said…
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder but this is a complete oxymoron: "visually impressive in a freakish and unnatural sort of way." They are completely natural.

But you knew that ...
XXXXX said…
From your previous post:
The solid meaning of life is always the same eternal thing,— the marriage, namely, of some unhabitual ideal, however special, with some fidelity, courage, and endurance; with some man's or woman's pains.

The word "marriage" comes into play. In your current post, you speak of the masculine and feminine energies that you feel.
From the prima material, comes all of life's creations. In a fundamental sort of way, these creations are seen as masculine or feminine depending on their characteristics. (It is NOT a gender thing and so the use of the words "yin" and "yang" make greater sense though it is true that one can argue that the male of the species is more naturally endowed with "yang" and has to dig deeper to find the "yin" that is there and that the opposite is true of the female of the species, due to their ability to give and nurture new life. Both energies come with their negative aspects as well.)

Human growth, psychologically speaking, can be described as the PROCESS of becoming aware of and reuniting the yin and yang that is within us all but out of balance. This gives great satisfaction and causes the rise of the word "marriage" and because this process is so deeply imbedded within our psyches, culture and society could so easily highjack it and made it a legality throughout the ages.

The feminine is considered to be the inspiration; the masculine the endurance and the unrelenting drive to master a task. The coming together of these energies, the challenge to successfully integrate them once again, brings tremendous satisfaction and, I agree wholeheartedly, is the solid meaning of life, as you say, in whatever particular form it may take.
And the potential of those forms is endless. It is characteristic of our human mind to see polarities. It aids us in decision making which is necessary for our survival. We naturally have more difficulty with shades of gray as it clouds this need to make clear decisions with conviction.
The ability to engage in the marriage of opposites requires a kind of surrendering which some people simply cannot do (Christ surrendering to the soldiers, surrendering to his Father's wishes, though he asked to be excused from the suffering.) A surrender to that which we recognize as a force larger or greater than ourselves. It is that from which we are born as a unique product of the prima material. And because it is uniquely what and who we are, we cannot but help to derive supreme satisfaction in the marriage of opposites which is the very stuff of our life.

Unknown said…
Bottom line: beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Aww come on, Lloyd. I was counting on you for support in pushing an aesthetic doctrine that values Utility. It's natural to eat food, cut firewood, raise sheep for wool, etc. There is nothing "natural" about looking at a stupid mountain, while gawking and ogling, "Gee whiz! Look how big that sucker is!" The San Juans are some of the most useless land on Earth, outdone only by Antarctica and the Himalayas.
Yes, of course the San Juans are "natural", strictly speaking. What I meant was that they are inconsonant with my appreciation of Nature.
"Pilgrimages up sacred mountains symbolize [...] renunciation of worldly desires..." Yes I suppose so, but deserts (rather than mountains) are the preferred places where ascetic monks go. (As well as "downsizer" type RV bloggers.)
"Incorrigible" is the right word for you. Still, I will keep trying to get you to renounce your vertiginous proclivities, and become "enlightened" by rolling hills, pastures, and green valleys.
Tesaje said…
Useless for whom? Mountain goats, bears, and cougars would beg to differ, finding them very good land, indeed. Anyone who happened upon a succulent patch of huckleberries finds them quite useful and tasty. Perhaps you belong to the 19th century when utility to enriching one's pocketbook was the only measure of goodness and slaughtering for the joy of killing was considered manly? But methinks you protest too much because if you found them so distasteful, why would you ever go there once, let alone repeatedly?
Unknown said…
When you put it in that context, I agree with you. If they had mineral value, they would have already been leveled and we would not be having this conversation. Therefore, they are there for hiking and bragging about the number of mountains and Colorado 14ers that were climbed. Since I don't do 14ers and not being a competitive guy, they really are pointless (pun intended) to me. I'd rather take a walk on the slopes of your first photo.

That first photo is in the San Juans...I can see it's slopes from my house.
Box Canyon Mark
No Mark. The top photo was taken in Lake City, the Queen City of the San Juans. But you're right in that it resembles the Bridge to Heaven in your backyard.
It really is "the very stuff of our life," isn't it?
XXXXX said…
Agree wholeheartedly with Tesaje above. Jeez, Boonie, the sun, moon, and stars really doesn't rise and set on humanity.
George, as you know, modern Wildlife Idolatry has become one more (embarrassing) manifestation of the Metropolitan Bubble Syndrome.

Be that as it may, there is more food for wildlife in people's backyards or ranches than in the gloomy, overgrown national forests and wilderness areas.
Brian said…
dang... this is much like a "Conversation" about religion... with as little hope of resolution. "people" seem to have as little understanding.

What this is, what that means, which is more beautiful a pasture or a peak? "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder"... a bus load of Hogwash.

There's only one "meaning" worth a damn. You're born into this life. You have a finite amount of time in this vale of tears. What are you gonna do with it? Grouse about what is or isn't purty? or go out and LIVE in it? To soak up every blessed moment.

Beauty is in every breath of wind, every grain of sand, every clap of thunder, Every hair on a Buffalo's butt, whether you are willing to see it or gloomily choose to NOT be a beholder.

For me there's only one real thing to wonder about, and it's many related versions; can anyone shut down their ego long enough to simply admire that beauty that IS; Just tilt back their head and feel the warmth of the sun on their face while the cool, sweet scented breeze cools their cheeks; without the wearisome, unending ego need to apply some deeper meaning to it? while struggling to convince all the other dissectors into their fold.

I suppose, my opinion carries just as much weight and importance... as all the others, but it works for me.
Jim and Gayle said…
I'm glad you cleared that up. I thought you were metaphorically referring to the Kardashians.

Essentially you are saying Beauty is in everything and is everywhere. I don't see the difference between that and saying that it is nowhere.

You have missed my point. You say "cool, sweet scented breezes...", but in fact they would mean nothing to you unless you are first uncomfortably hot.
Brian said…
no sir. You missed mine. A difference in focus. To each his own.
Carolyn said…
I am 112 years old and have never ever seen or heard people talk about nature in terms of your idea of beauty is wrong and mine is right.

I never.

BUT I say whatever steams yer bean.

Very pretty pictures ~ male sky god? gorgeous cloud formations … you ever been to Rooster Rock State Park in Oregon? The Park is named after a rock that looks like a penis. I have since learned that chickens do indeed have sex …. and that roosters have penises. I think that's funny.