How long should one stay at an awe-inspiring view to not belittle the beauty?

August 12th, 2013, 4pm

It was 25°C with scattered clouds. The breeze was light.

After being in the city for seven weeks, it was getting easier to forget one reason I’m here is for the seemingly unending beauty a couple dozen minutes in any direction could provide.

Snoqualmie Falls was close, and in the spirit of dérive, once anything felt right, I pursued. Passing by old trains that deserved more attention that I was able to provide, I parked next to the eighty or so other visitors. Crossing the bridge to the view, individuals, couples, and families were walking away from it. “What a pity,” I thought to myself. I heard the roar, but saw the crowds before the cause. Some were chatting away, other sitting, staring into their phones. That knee-jerk emotion that I couldn’t quite stifle pondered nostalgia and how much more pure those early visitors from the black and white photographs I saw seconds ago must have been in their appreciation of the scene before them.

Walking down a ways for a better view, I caught a glimpse of the first waterfall taller than myself, as chills played call and return. I stood and stared. Pulled out my phone and took a few shots. Recorded a 15 second video of it for a potential #latergram. Then my mind began to wander. This was just a stop before the hike I planned on, four miles up the road. I saw the view, why was I lingering? My body produced chills, wasn’t that proof enough that the stop was justified?

I contemplated the feelings I’ve been having about beauty lately. How the sense of wonder I had a decade ago, thumbing through leaves of the newest NATGEO Adventure magazine felt. How, in the Days of Dial-Up, I would save nearly any breathtaking view I happened upon, and set them as my desktop wallpaper. And how those views just don’t impress me the way they used to, now that I have Instagram and follow so many people seeing so many beautiful things. Vicarious travel. Numbed by innumerable lovelies. How I feel a tinge of guilt every time I double tap a gorgeous vista, and scroll on down to the next.

How long should I sit there and stare at that view before thumbing down to someone’s coffee? How many people gawk at their screens as long as they would if the view were before them?

When I drove from Los Angeles to New Orleans seven months ago, I took eighteen days to do it, and enjoyed each passing view at 75mph, stopping to camp each night, and soaking in the surroundings. Two months ago, I drove from Mississippi to Seattle in four days. South Dakota, Montana, Northern Idaho, and Washington were so incredibly beautiful in retrospect. And the first two days of driving were beautiful at the time. But since there was such a rush to get settled in Seattle, there was no time to take the beauty as it came. I felt like someone sat me down said, “Here. Here are some of the most beautiful things you will see in your life. Now sit and concentrate on this beauty… for 70 hours.” I felt ashamed that I knew I wasn’t appreciating the beauty, but my mind was numbed to those constant rolling hills, sharp cliffs, and anvil-headed skies.

So my earlier theory about seeing amazing things vicariously was an excuse for stopping to appreciate them was dead wrong. It was my eyes that saw so much and ignored a good portion of it. It was my consciousness that felt the mist from that waterfall and was already separating itself from those senses in anticipation of the hike I had to get to. It goes right along with all of the stories occasionally posted about Modern Man suffering from overstimulation on every front.

I left Snoqualmie Falls too soon, and as I retreated back to my vehicle, I saw the judgement in the eyes of the oncoming visitors, who couldn’t possibly fathom how I could be walking away from something so gorgeous and rare.

Paul, Gabrielle, Craig and David Wade said thanks.

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Andrew Noyes

I moved around a lot, and now I'm attempting to settle. Ever pursuing education, art, and expertise.

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