Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Snow Leopard - Peter Matthiessen

Journeys are what we make of them. The heart, friendship, loss, memory, or love can measure the vast expanses of an undiscovered continent as surely as miles beyond miles in faraway lands. Similarly, the mind and heart can be explored and found anywhere - habits of both precede our footsteps on the road which rises up to meet us, just as we are needed to land our paces.

Matthiessen's work is a true travelogue - in that the landscape ends up evoking and reflecting the traveler's internal life. Matthiessen looks into the mountains of the Dolpo region and time and again sees himself reflected, looking back at him. Do we find it strange that Matthiessen titles his book after a most elusive creature which he will never see? We should not. This is a book about death and emptiness, about missing and longing. Matthiessen's journey is in search of himself amidst spaces of loneliness, both internal and external. To be one's own companion, or, rather, to be acquainted with the companionship of the universe - this too is the traveler's road. V. S. Naipaul famously wrote that "the world is what it is." Such a sentiment could be comfortably appended to this journey.