High and dry in the long hot day,
Lost and lonely, every way,
Flats all around, sky up above…
Yes I need a little water of love…
Dire Straits: Water of Love
The sky is the greatest distracter…
Imagine a clear, azure blue sky. A few flecks of cloud dust
drifting, in the whereabouts of this empty
vastness. Down below is the barren desert, flat and featureless
except for an odd tree dotting the arid landscape. You are
a weary traveller, tired from the long walk across this dry
ocean. You pause, take a break. You look about, look up and
notice the sky. The languorous, aimless journey of the clouds
tempts the eye. Following their movement is like following
time itself. It puts one in a sort of hypnotic trance until
at last the mind bores itself of its silent reverie and focuses
attention on objects closer to mother earth.
It picks out a naked tree. Its trunk sporting sleek, sinuous
veins that snake up to the unfolding branches and reach out
like long, slithering tentacles into the sky. Your focus reverts
to the emptiness above. Somewhere below is the lonely tree
trying to answer the call of this beyond. It is at this supreme
moment then that you forget your long tiring journey ahead.
The pressures of the material world from which you have run
and remain suspended in time wondering… at all around
you. The blue sky beckons, happily, loftily, away, unknown
perhaps, to all the worries that plague you on mother earth.
The long lonely road to nowhere…
An oft used phrase, this one is so scintillating in the depth
of its cry. There are them Harley Davidson angels, riding
the breadth of the continent. They burn America’s interstates,
the wind in their hair, the sun on their faces, the distant
horizon calling them as it recedes further and further away.
To a layman they are aimless drifters. They shape their lives
on the highway with no known purpose or ambition. But sit
around with one of them in one of them countless motels along
the way and you will discover that they will describe the
land better than any map or journal can. Every creek along
the way, every bend in the road is firmly etched in their
minds. Life is a journey without an end. To stop is to decay.
As Louis L’ Amour, the famed Wild West writer puts it,
“When a man settles down, he stagnates and dies”.
Imagine then, this long lonely road to nowhere, snaking here
between pine clad mountains or burning flat across the desert
floor. Everywhere, of course, there is the same, clear blue
sky above; the universal binder… the greatest distracter.
The land is the simplest form of architecture… (Frank
lot about traveling the land is noting little details that
occur in the surrounding terrain. The long serrated line of
ridges broken by a craggy mound; the sweeping plain complimented
by a lonely tree; the wheeling hawk mirrored in a serene lake…
the list is endless. A good landscape photographer always
looks out for details of the kind. Knowing the lie of the
land and all its myriad features thoroughly calls for sharp
powers of observation.
A photographer traveling across the English countryscape
supplies an amusing anecdote. Cows, he says, are the most
awry of all animals. They are always scattered on the terrain,
never in a composition. All animals, he argues, should be
like sheep; sheep that just mould themselves into the topography
in perfect harmony. A photographer’s delight. On a recent
trip to Khajuraho, I had the opportunity to observe this phenomenon
What is it about the beauty of the distant horizon that compels
great artists to render masterpieces?
The uncharted wilderness…?
The infinite loneliness…?
Or is it just plain curiosity…?
I do not know.
I wonder though if there is a way to connect with all of this:
The sky, the wind, the earth, the sun and the rain. The bugs,
the flies, the heat, the dust, the fog, the mist. The road,
the tree, the ever compelling horizon, the pain and the joy?
Maybe there is…
Take a camera and go on a trip to the nearest scenic spot.
Read a book by Louis L’ Amour.
Take a course on the Zen Philosophy.
Yet better still, try riding a motorcycle.
It’s a pity we do not exploit the freedom this wonderful
machine can give us. I do not mean struggling with an infernal
machine on the congested streets of Delhi. But try riding
in the country. On those rutted dirt roads and the dusty state
highways. You will feel things you never experience in the
air-conditioned cocoon of a car. The wind in your hair. The
sun in your face. The dust in your eyes. The tarmac slipping
by below your feet. At sixty miles per hour, life is a dull
roar in your ears.
You stop at will, look at the land, fall in love with it.
Look at the sky; notice its changing hues from dawn to dusk.
Follow the unending road; forget your past, present and future.
Your worries, your pains diminish in the horizon behind. Loneliness
is your greatest companion, the sky your source of sustenance.