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Special Collection V:
Landscapes of Beauty; Where the Birds Would Fly

David F Williams, PhD, DSc, FREng, FLSW
Author, Scientist & Consultant

Special Collection V: Landscapes of Beauty; Where the Birds Would Fly | Hiraeth & Ubuntu by David F Williams

Special Collection V:
Landscapes of Beauty; Where the Birds Would Fly


The more closely you observe, the more uncertain you become
Heisenberg’s principle playing with our beautiful planet
The more closely we observe change
It is less certain that beauty will persevere

I knoweth not a landscape of ugliness that was natural

I cannot avow an image of beauty that is not natural
Beauty, the unadorned face of a lover, the naïve smile of a newborn child,
The red-headed hummingbird in stationary flight
A voracious orca surfacing off Patagonia
Solitary right whale cruising under Knysna Head,
A proud cheetah, head held high, scouting from a leafless tree,
An unassuming smiling welcome from a Māori family in Kaikoura,
Itoh peony and Bali hibiscus flowering overnight in our garden,
The icy grandeur of Snowdon’s Crib Goch

Images of beauty are never ephemeral
Captured by retinas, retained forever, if the brain allows
But the subjects of beauty may just have temporal splendor
As neglectful erosion casts unwanted shadows

Nature is losing the fight with mankind
The beholder has less to behold

Other senses can detect beauty, but
Vision is the special case
With discernment and discrimination
Focusing on the glorious, blurring into oblivion the extraneous

Remember, the most beautiful sound I ever heard,
Be that Maria, the morning Orpheus or the Nightingale in Berkeley Square
But sounds are dispersed within the cacophony of life,
Traffic in the Square, coughs in the audience, that ears cannot filter

The fragrance of lavender at dawn, Ethiopian coffee aroma at mid-day
The tandoori oven late at night
Their memory, is just that,
A memory that a smell passed by, but could not linger

This is the vision of the creation and the destruction
Seen by the birds who still want to fly

First Day: The Creation of Beauty

Pristine mountain ranges
Glaciers, cwms and cols
Condors gliding amidst rugged peaks
Gorges and rift valleys, buttes and canyons
Subterranean stalactites
Dripping limestone chimneys
Weathered cliffs edging the oceans
Or white coral sands
Lapped by the waters so blue
Playful dolphins roam
Where icebergs drift slowly by
Lazy mangrove swamps
Deltas spread their sediment far and wide
Bucolic hills and downs
Lush, verdant valleys
Willows that weep over streams
Swans serenely wading along
Gorillas in rain forests
Snow leopards on the tundra
Sequoias that reach for the sky
Simmering mirage-laden deserts
Salt flats where water faded away

These are the landscapes of beauty

Second Day: Shaping the Planet; Creating Names and Place

Vast Mongolian steppes and Canadian prairies
Deserts of Sahara, Gobi and Kalahari
Continents fissured by Amazon, Mekong and Congo
Snowcapped Fuji and Kilimanjaro
Maldives sand bars just meters high
Great Barrier Reef with its biogenic coral cays
Wonderful ruggedness of the South African Karoo
Falling water at Victoria and Yosemite
Spouting geysers in frozen Iceland
Majestic fjords of Norway and New Zealand south
Quietly flowing Don and Danube
Basalt form on Antrim’s causeway
With Old Man of Hoy not far away
Aboriginal Uluru and Moshoeshoe’s Thaba Basiu
Testament to the spirituality of creation.

But shaping can be violent
Earthquakes along ocean rims
Unleashing tsunamis, destruction not so beautiful
Flooding erstwhile splendid coasts
With detritus of fauna and flora
Erupting volcanoes also destroy
Remember Pompeii and Krakatoa

Nature has not finished yet

Third Day: Adding and Taking Away

Depending on the beholder’s eye
That which humans add to the natural planet
Can enhance beauty or take it away.
Stonehenge, ethereal aesthetics at the solstice
The power of China’s great wall cannot be denied
Angkor Wat and Ta Prohm’s Khmer temples
The Mughal’s crown mausoleum of Taj Mahal
Hanging Gardened ziggurat at Babylon
Not far from Giza’s pyramids
Or the Doric colonnades of the Parthenon
Far away, Harlech’s castle could not tame the Welsh.

But too many simply destroy or obliterate
Through inelegance or hubris
With monstrous, heathen structures
As the Prince’s carbuncle in London
Goethe’s ‘imagination without taste’
Mitterrand’s ugly projects in Paris
Brussels’ monumentally ugly Palais de Justice
London’s Post Office Tower, a restaurant balancing on a chimney
Winston’s phallic banking erection
New York Disunited nations on the east side
Collapsed condos in Miami
Rio’s spiritualistic eyesore

Cerebral paralysis the world over

Fourth Day: Exterminating God’s Wonderful Creatures

Male red deer, roaming the glen
Otters and beavers making rivers their home
Orangutans swinging in Gabon
Hummingbirds, herons and hawks
Oyster catchers doing what their name implies
Great whites and killer whales at the food chain’s summit
Burmese pythons praised for keeping ugly rats down

But species are purged or debased without cease
As we destroy them with our dark actions
Caged animals in city zoos
Cock fighting, hare coursing
Bear baiting, camel racing
Trapping elephants across Africa
Poaching rhinos for elicit horn
Polar bears in trash bins for want of natural food
Japan hunts whales for their research
Chickens and pigs see no daylight before slaughter
In-bred show dogs that cannot walk

Should we not be content with humiliating them like this
Our wanton neglect of climate and habitat dooms them anyway
Destroying homes, their very existence
Their own landscapes of beauty

Millennia of Darwinian natural selection
Gives way to decades of moronic unnatural deselection

Fifth Day: Defining Beauty, Before it is Too Late

God created beauty; all else is the work of man

Perception of the natural, the unadorned, natural, landscape
Can be the epitome, the definition, of beauty

A vision where all things are equal, without blemish or distractions
The object can obliterate all other surrounding fields
From the observer’s memory, just retaining the regal image

Distinctive, neither vague nor amorphous
With shape, symmetrical or asymmetrical
Angular or soft, extroverted rather than introverted
Passive or dynamic, powerful or submissive
Color vivid, or pale, or just plain neutral

None of these matter, yet collectively give
Details that harmoniously combine nature’s pixels into
An image that resonates through the eye’s plexus
Formatting in the cortex of the observer
Each being different so that beauty is in their own eye

Sixth Day: Destruction of Beauty

The towering South Col of Everest
Littered with detritus of climbers

Dominant Table of the Cape
Disfigured by cables for tourists

Snow-blessed worldly alps
Mis-adorned with ugly ski lifts

Florida’s Atlantic coastline covered
With cheek-by-jowl corroding condos

Natal’s warm ocean beaches
Swarming with shark cages and blood

Welsh valleys that were so green
Transformed by coal dust’s new peaks

Mountain summits in Chilean Andes
Housing observatories for the sake of science

The glorious Rio beaches
Overlooked by a crumbling symbol of Christ

Challenging Appalachian Trail of Virginia
Home to abandoned homesteads and rust

Expansive Siberian freshwater lakes
Reduced to polluted, muddy, remains

Each and every village of life
Now a checkerboard of towers and masts
And cities of substance worldwide
Have skyscraper chimneys with platforms atop

Inelegance wins time and time again

Seventh Day: Rest, or Rehabilitation

The Bible mandates a day of rest
After six days of God’s creative work
Where does that leave us
Now that the created beauties are
Badly damaged, over our centuries, not his days
Whoever your God is,
It is not working,
As man’s destruction overwhelms her creation

Of course, we have to live
Needing and seeking new energy and food sources
Recreation to soothe troubled minds
No-one who has been there and done that
Should deny others who try to follow
And rehabilitation of inelegant monstrosities
Is now nigh impossible
But moratoria could be cajoled
To restore landscapes of beauty

Franschhoek, South Africa and Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA, 2022

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