ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Great Outdoors

The lure of the outdoors derives from an aesthetic of delicate balance and elegance in equilibrium.

The question from an EPW editor on why I choose to frequent the outdoors launched an expedition in my mind. For a couple of months, the required articulation got bogged down in bad weather – metaphorically, that is. Then one day, you are gifted with clear skies and off you went for the summit you sought, the high pass you wished to cross – or you simply saw the landscape for what it was. The skies cleared the other day as I watched the John Ford classic The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. We live in times bombarded by media. The bulk of the movies we see have contexts more complicated than a growing settlement called Shinbone and what happens when a lawyer, a violent outlaw and the only man in town the gunslinger avoided meet. Even with two of those men fancying the same woman, Ford’s movie was still devoid of clutter. Its clarity appeared enhanced by old-world black and white. Film-making is an aesthetic. I am not going to refer to the dictionary to define “aesthetic”. I will go with my understanding – it is a balance, an elegance in equilibrium.

I remember a day in the Upper Rupin Valley. It was 2008, I think. A friend who was a veteran of the outdoors and I, someone yet to fathom his need for the outdoors, were camped there. It was just the two of us – two human beings in a vast mountainous landscape. A nearby trail brought an occasional villager who paused for conversation and tea. Otherwise, it was just landscape and you. Years ago, leaving some of my education incomplete, I had left home to make a career. I worked my butt off. Over a decade later, I seemed to be doing well. That was the least expected of you – you had to do well. Nobody asked what you did. But you had to do well. Men disappeared to reappear years later, “doing well”. They sported designation, importance, money and were expected not to have time for anything but careers. Women, it seemed, liked their men so. That reinforced the urge to do well. In late 2006, I was around 16 years old as a journalist and approximately 10 years old as an outdoor enthusiast. They were definitely two separate schools of thought and experience. And one day something in me snapped. I resigned my job and stopped “doing well”. Two years later, recast as a freelance journalist and in the Rupin Valley, I was still a doubting Thomas.

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