If a Tree Falls in the Forest and There’s No New York Art Critic to Review it, No One Cares

by Paddy Johnson on August 27, 2015 Canada + Diary

Meat Cove

We drove until the road stopped in Meat Cove, which is just outside of Cape Breton Highlands National Park. This is what we saw.

I like looking. It’s why I write at Art F City, and why, every summer, I chose to vacation in the wilderness. I don’t want to stop looking, but I need a break from the rest of the job.

Spending a bunch of time on a trail makes that easy. This year, I spent part of my vacation at Cape Breton Highlands National Park in Nova Scotia. One of the best qualities of visiting a national park: admission doesn’t come with a press release telling you what to think about your experience and why it’s important to humanity. Nobody expects visitors to theorize their experience in the woods or even reflect on it. The job is just to enjoy it. (Which I did.)

During the trip, I spent three days roaming about in a car and on their public trails. The park’s roads are carved out of billion year old cliffs carpeted with deciduous and coniferous trees. The Atlantic Ocean surrounds this domineering landscape, bleeding out to horizon. You feel like a speck on the earth — a lone speck. There’s virtually nobody else around to see this with you.

Unlike most marvels of the world, which come with a tourist industry roughly the size of a small nation, Cape Breton is supported by, but not overrun with tourists. This means that the experience of the sublime one gets from peering over the side of a 1800 foot high cliff isn’t sublimated by having to wait in line for two hours to do so. There’s no membership program that gives certain viewers easy access, and when you get to the look out point, nobody’s been stationed there to tell you how to hashtag your instagram photos. (Often there’s no cell phone signal anyway.) It’s an amazing experience and entirely unmediated.

I spent a bunch of time taking pictures regardless—I like to be able to share them with my friends—but it was nice to shoot without the obligation to do so.  Nobody is looking to me to espouse my opinion on a cliff, and frankly it’s not warranted. This land has been around for more than a billion years, and no one needs me to explain why it feels timeless or important. It just is.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: