Mountains

on cairns in the backcountry…

cairns are, in a way, a coarse representation of the tumult between the linear and non-linear perspectives to life… the former measuring existence set paths adhering to predictable, quantified templates, the latter proposing diverse, meandering paths to arrive at the same destinations… mountains as a metaphor are quite apt, for their traverses are an exercise in contemplation of deeper questions, and cairns sit between the known and the unknown…

Cairns on Bada Bhagal trek trails, Himachal Pradesh, India

a mound of stones… an ode to the ingenuity of traditional knowledge systems, it is surprising how they survive the tenacity of the elements despite their frugal construction… nudging the wayfarer towards the path of least resistance, their purpose is to guide one from point A to B – linearity – yet the essence of the journey remains full of randomness and the consequent surprises, infinite thoughts and possibilities – non-linearity…

Cairns on Bada Bhagal trek trails, Himachal Pradesh, India

they imbibe several forms… some overtly embellished with prayers and their bright flags, beckoning the explorer from afar offering safe thoroughfare, some camouflaged timidly in their environs, refusing to come out till one inches really close but once spotted, reassuring the wanderer on the validity of his chosen path… for mountain landscapes reveal only the immediate present and are loath to revealing the future… and in such insecure atmospheres, ‘tis cairns that pacify, giving comfort in antecedence…

Cairns on Bada Bhagal trek trails, Himachal Pradesh, India

cairns are moody… they sparkle in the sun, brood in the mist and cloud, stare stoically at the rain, sigh at twilight and glimmer in the moonlight… they aren’t mere trail markers, but its historians too, explorations, exhilarations and tragedies etched upon them…  the more elaborate ones near civilizations are consecrated across myriad spheres of human activity – war, sacrifice, death, recreation – the ones in the high mountains are rather simpletons from that perspective, in their ragged, wizened rocks, solemnly guiding the way till they’re eroded away…

musings on cairns, trekking in Himalaya…

Author: Parth Joshi

Allured by the outdoors, the author is made up in parts of that quintessential lost soul wreathing under the pangs of biophilia in a desk job, a wannabe elegist mostly ending up in dungeons of poetasters and an optimist waiting for the senility of the modern world to fade away while sampling shoots and leaves. In saner times, he has a keen interest in areas pertaining to tourism, history, agriculture and climate change, especially with respect to historical interpretations, emerging technologies and future livelihoods. An avid trekker, runner, cyclist, birder and photographer, he is more often than not found gloating over anything hinterland, on foot or over computer monitors, and fantasizing solutions that can foster inclusive growth and sustainable livelihoods for communities at the grassroots.

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