Outdoor Advent Day 8

A tangle of pale brown and green tree trunks sprout from a leaf covered slope, all reaching up to the bright blue sky above. There are a myriad of shapes outlined by the trunks and branches, so many that it feels as though, if you look hard enough, a picture will emerge from the lines.

Such illusions, depending on how the eye is placed and used, drive home the truth that our habitual vision of things is not necessarily right: it is only one of an infinite number, and to glimpse an unfamiliar one, even for a moment, unmakes us, but steadies us again. It’s queer but invigorating.

– page 101, The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd

I took this photo because from where I stood I could see, outlined by the tangle of tree trunks and branches, the shape of a dragon.

If you can see the dragon I saw in the wood in this picture you’re doing better than me because it’s gone. It was a creation of the precise link between my eyes and the trees and the pattern of light falling on them in that moment, entirely lost to the pixels I sought to capture it with. In fact I nearly discarded it as “another failed photo” until, flicking through my quote journal to find what I wanted for yesterday’s post, I came across this one from Nan Shepherd and realised it complimented this picture perfectly.

There is a lot that can be read into these particular words of Nan’s. Indeed the whole of The Living Mountain is rife with a depth of thought and clarity of expression that stands up to re-reading after re-reading and always rewards with at least one new insight. It is a slender book, a mere 108 pages, but it is not a quick read. It is something to be savoured, word by word, sentence by sentence and I urge you to read it if you haven’t. I promise you won’t regret it.

But enough, I’m getting away from the point of this post.

From this quote I could – if I didn’t think you’d all either run for the hills or inform me that there are many people who’ve already covered the topic much more eloquently – spend hundreds upon hundreds of words philosophising about how the nature of our reality relies on an agreement that specific words denote specific things without being able to confirm in any way that the thing we are talking about looks the same to me as it does to you. Or that we each exist and live within our own personal illusion that has some overlap with the illusions created by those people we interact with but which never completely matches.

I won’t, though.

Instead I’ll just say that knowing there is an infinite number of ways of looking at each and every thing I see and experience in my life gives me a sense of freedom more expansive, and yes invigorating, than any other I have known.

I hope it does the same for some of you.


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