“the shock of the real”

En route to Observation Point, Zion National Park, 09.2011.
En route to Observation Point, Zion National Park, 09.2011.

“A weird, lovely, fantastic object out of nature like Delicate Arch [Arches National Park] has the curious ability to remind us–like rock and sunlight and wind and wilderness–that out there is a different world, older and greater and deeper by far than ours, a world which surrounds and sustains the little world of men as sea and sky surround and sustain a ship. The shock of the real. For a little while we are again able to see, as the child sees, a world of marvels. For a few moments we discover that nothing can be taken for granted, for if this ring of stone is marvelous then all which shaped it is marvelous, and our journey here on earth, able to see and touch and hear in the midst of tangible and mysterious things-in-themselves, is the most strange and daring of all adventures.”

Edward Abbey, “Cliffrose and Bayonets,” in Desert Solitaire; A Season in the Wilderness (1968)

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in eternal pursuit of an elusive Snow Leopard (Matthiessen)

Bounding into the “inner worlds” in the Valle de la Muerte in the Atacama Desert near San Pedro de Atacama, Chile, 08.2012.

“As the hand held before the eye conceals the greatest mountain, so the little earthly life hides from the glance the enormous lights and mysteries of which the world is full, and he who can draw it away from before his eyes, as one draws away a hand, beholds the great shining of the inner worlds.”

-Nachman of Breslov, a Jewish theologian of the eighteenth century, remembered for his meditations on hitbodedut, or the value inherent in “self-seclusion” for the purposes of personal edification and enlightenment; cited as an epigraph in Peter Matthiessen’s hauntingly beautiful¬†The Snow Leopard.