Travel Theme: Mystical


Ailsa’s travel theme this week is Mystical.  Her inspiration comes from a photograph that Vlad at Winds Against the Current posted last week.   Go check out the inspiration.  (I’ll wait . . . . )

Isn’t that a magnificent photograph?  My first thought was that I couldn’t hold a candle to that photograph, couldn’t even begin to think of a shot that was near the same level as that.   I thought this despite knowing that isn’t what participating in Ailsa’s weekly theme is about. (And anybody is welcome to participate, btw.)

But, this morning, as I was dragging myself out of bed, still tired after a night of interrupted sleep (a story not worth the re-telling, full of first world problems, which is to say that what happened was fixable and is now resolved) I caught a glimpse of a magical sunrise.

The sky had been set afire with reds, pinks and lavender streaks arching across the sky.  The bare trees were still silhouetted against the horizon.  As I opened the drapes on the other window, I saw deep ribbons of pink and blue in the western sky.

My younger sister occasionally reminisces about a fight we had one Thanksgiving as we were riding in my parents’ car.  There was a colorful sunset that evening.  I remember being awed by how pretty it was.  I don’t remember what the conversation was in the car, but I wanted to talk about the sunset.  Do you know, I asked with all the authority of a know-it-all 12-year old, that sunrises and sunsets are prettier now than they were 100 years ago?  I began detailing obscure facts about pollution and dust particles refracting light.

Will you just shut up!   NOBODY cares you nerd! my sister screamed.  It’s just a sunset.  Don’t ruin it with facts Ms. Scientific!  

I wouldn’t shut up, of course, and my father threatened to pull off to the side of the road and make us walk if we didn’t stop bickering.   My sister and I were quiet but took every opportunity throughout dinner to snarl at each other whenever we thought adults weren’t looking.

We laugh about that sunset argument sometimes — my sister the scientist and physician and me the photographer and art  (as well as sunset) enthusiast.  Funny how the roles flipped as we grew into our adult selves.  But, the two aren’t as incongruous as one might think at first glance and I must have known that even then.   Yes, the sunset was beautiful, but it was an astounding mystery to me that maybe mankind had caused it inadvertently.  I wasn’t thinking about how those poor souls before the Industrial Age might have suffered without modern inventions, but how they suffered for lack of a beautiful sunset coloring the cold November sky.

Mystical:  adj.  Mystic or occult or pertaining to mysticism.  Spiritually symbolic.  Obscure meaning:  mysterious.

I get a little edgy when someone claims that nature is mystical, if they are using the word in a spiritual sense.  Spiritually symbolic I can agree with, but nature containing spirituality or the essence of spirituality or of a supernatural deity is a bit trickier for me to agree with.  If I understand mystical used in some contexts to mean nature as reminiscent of things mysterious or spiritual, as being numinous, surpassing one’s understanding, I can concur.   But if you talk about trees and mountains and rocks containing some sort of spiritual life force, I will not likely be lining up to buy it.

And yet, nature has a power that is both magnificent and seemingly greater than ourselves.   (Though the havoc civilization wreaks upon the environment makes it seem quite powerless at times.)  What I find mystical about nature is that being in nature has the benefit of taking us outside of our daily urban/suburban routines.  We experience sights, sounds and smells that we don’t notice within our cars, buses and trains.   We see beauty that is there all the time — whether it be the mathematical complexity of myriad spores arranged within a seed pod , the delicate color adaptations of a flower for a specific pollinating bee, the aroma of the fallen leaves moldering on the forest floor, or the sound of a warbler singing a call:  nature is full of things mysterious.   It is vast and unknown.  It is not unknowable and future humans may find answers to some of nature’s riddles; but, to the individual,  much of it in its singular existence is unknown:   Why are those seeds spread in that manner?  Why the specific mix of magenta and yellow in a wildflower?  What is the name of the emerald-colored insect I had never observed before it crawled into the frame of my camera?  What species of bird is making that sound and is it a male calling a female or a female chirping to her offspring?  What caused a superstorm to hit in a particular place and time and can I make myself safe from it happening again?  Nevertheless, we enjoy nature even if we don’t understand it, even if we don’t contemplate it.

Maybe that is why nature can seem not just mysterious, but spiritual as well; a force outside ourselves, bigger than the individual.  It exists whether we take notice of it or not.  When I realize that — whenever some piece of beauty in the natural world shows up unexpectedly — it takes me outside of myself and it can be symbolically spiritual; it can be mysterious.

When I opened the draperies this morning and saw the prismatic reds, blues and yellows in the early morning sky, it diverted me, just briefly, from my intentional actions of the morning.   It took me outside of my schedule and away from whatever I was thinking about at that moment.  I grabbed my camera.

Mysterious, I thought.  Mystical.   And very pretty.

Ah, yes!  I had my photo for this week’s challenge!

Looking out the east window at 7:30 this morning

Looking out the west window, 7:30 this morning

Here are a links to just a few blogs others have posted for Mystical:

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5 responses to “Travel Theme: Mystical

  1. Respect for your parents with FIVE daughters, oh my 😀

  2. You’ve written a great and interesting post, Anne, thank you!
    Your description of the verbal car ‘fight’ with your sister, and your Dad’s reaction, made me smile. So recognizable 🙂

    • I have 4 sisters so there were lots of those fights over the years. We all thought we were so skilled at fighting without being detected by our parents. I usually lost though because I had the biggest mouth and the flying fists. Took me a long time to learn to art of subtle fighting — but great that we can laugh about it now and when we see our own children (or grandchildren in some cases) do the same things.

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