Why We Love A Landscape

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by                                                               And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.                                        By John Masefield  (for the complete poem, see the end of the post)

This is a longing that is almost visceral; a longing that rides the rhythms of a physical place and speaks of loss and hope.

I saw my first mountain when I was thirty-nine. I was standing on Italian soil with my children and my mother. Across the border, the Swiss Alps filled the spaces between land and sky.

The alps simply are, but that being is a waiting and a call – if one is disposed to hear. My family and I longed to follow the thread of ourselves to them but time and vehicular constraints made it impossible. We turned from their muted blue and white with sorrow and gladness.

Years later I was able to visit them. I drove the roads that stretch around them like string.

I breathed the fragrance of their flowered meadows;

scrunched their snow in my hands and mouth;

watched clouds dapple their chunky, lichen-coated sides

and slid down their scree slopes.

And now, strangely, I long for them. I, who know so little of their moods and even less of their treachery, have taken these geological structures, these upheavals of the Earth’s crust, as parts of myself.

I enjoy deserts and forests and bush; they dotted my childhood. Is it the state of unfamiliarity that breeds this feeling for mountains? Is it a yearning for the novel? No. Not entirely. I feel a kinship for undulating paddocks – a permanent feature of my young life. When parted too long, I yearn for their calming and comforting presence.

The sky of the mountains, narrow in the slow-made valleys, opens like a blossom, to vastness as one ascends.

Rendered tiny at the base, one is still insignificant but also exalted and exulting, at the peak.

The mountains, despite their grandeur, have become intimate. As one stands at the top, shoulder to shoulder with the peaks, it is as though among companions – mighty and glorious though they are.

The mountains call to the noble part of oneself, the part that needs to be, not at the oars of a row boat or the jib of a yacht, but at the helm of a tall ship. They call all our senses and pull on our deep knowledge of who we are.

One does not conquer a mountain. One is with it for a time, experiencing it and oneself.

A landscape that places the viewer in relationship with themselves and itself answers a yearning of the spirit.

What landscape calls you or speaks to your spirit?

For a more practical journey up a particular Swiss mountain, stay tuned.

SEA FEVER by John Masefield

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,                                                       And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way, where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

I took these photos in France, Switzerland, Austria, Italy and Norway. Click on one below to scroll through large versions.

12 responses to “Why We Love A Landscape

  1. The ocean speaks most evocatively to me: gray and secretive; calling forth fogs and pelicans, hidden and endless. It encourages the imagination, daring one to wonder what would lurk beneath its depths.

  2. Gorgeous, gorgeous photos, Ms. Cuttlefish. And wonderful text to go along with them. It’s a truly “wish I were there” experience to read this post. Love it lots.

  3. Promenade Claire

    This post has made me miss the Alps even more. a superb piece of writing, of longing, of being. stunning! And the poem of the sea….. thank you

  4. Well, there are mountain, but then there are Mountains! … and it’s those that take us to another level of experience. Great tribute to these wonders!

  5. I like this post

  6. loved the way you described the experience. it’s like being there.

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