It was the perfect day. The weather was incredible. We’d looked beyond the ski area boundary signs before, of course, but this — the crystal clear visibility — meant we could see for hundreds of miles.
From this high up — the very pinnacle of Mount Hutt, in the New Zealand Alps — we could actually see the curvature of the earth. And it looked like the snow-wrapped mountains extended the whole way there.
The photo at right can’t come close to doing the view justice — especially as some idiot couldn’t resist parking himself in the frame! (Sorry, folks!)
Every time I look at this picture I well up, not because it’s good but because the memory — of unspoilt nature at its most breathtaking — is so special. I was living what The Displaced Nation likes to call la dolce vita.
Today and for the remainder of the month, I’ll be urging you to live la dolce vita as well, by conjuring up the sensory aspects of travel.
This week, I’m talking up the need to train your eyes to see the beauty all around you when you travel. In my case, in fact, this requirement of la dolce vita comes rather naturally. I see beauty everywhere I go — in nature, in ancient structures, even in the occasional female of the species(!). In 1878, the Irish writer Margaret Wolfe Hungerford coined the following phrase in her novel Molly Bawm:
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
One of the meanings I take from it is that you see what you look for; so, look for beauty and you’ll find it almost everywhere. (The reverse, of course, is also true.)
But that’s just my tin-pot philosophy, and this week we’re asking you to come up with the most heart-stopping view from your travels. Now that narrows it down considerably, because for me a “view” means a landscape — and I find there are elements a landscape has to have for me to really put it up on that pedestal:
1) It has to be isolated. Maybe that’s just me, but I love the wilderness, that connection to nature, that feeling that this view may not have changed for a thousand years or more.
2) It has it be high-up. I love to be high (no double entendre intended!). A bit of altitude can reveal the magnificence of even a tortured landscape. How peaceful does the Earth look from space, eh?
3) It has to be dramatic. What separates one pretty landscape from another? In my humble opinion, there needs to be some drama, something visually astounding: the scale of the place; the way color dominates it; the patterns of light and dark; the capture of elemental forces at work… Drama is in most places if you look for it.
I very rarely take pictures — which doesn’t exactly lend itself well to a life of writing and blogging. I’d been in Thailand for six months and taken only one photo when my parents (in despair!) sent me a camera for Christmas. It was great! I gave it to a friend.
Luckily, I am now married to one of the afore-mentioned beautiful women — and the pictures I don’t take, she makes up for in spades. Seriously. She has been known to take over a hundred pictures just to ensure having one good one (but she keeps them all). She takes photos of flowers! Of swans! Of cows! And of yours truly! Thank goodness — otherwise, I wouldn’t have been able to share with you the above alpine view, except with words.
So, please — tell us about your favorite views! Where is the most beautiful, jaw-dropping place you’ve seen with your own two eyes? I’d especially love to know, as I plan on visiting a few of them :0)
Please tell all in the comments! In addition, I urge you to send me a photo of that view: firstname.lastname@example.org. With the help of my better half, I may be staging a “la dolce vita slideshow” before long!
STAY TUNED…for Monday when The Displaced Nation’s agony aunt, Mary-Sue Wallace, will be addressing cross-cultural quandaries and travel-related confusion.
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Img: Tony James Slater in the New Zealand Alps, taken at the top of Mount Hutt (December 2009).