Mount Snowdon and Sartre : Memoir

It’s always the same. When you live in an area rarely do you fully appreciate its surroundings. This was how it was when I was studying in Wales. Even though I had climbed Snowdon with my daughter on my back when I was married, this time I was in Wales to study, or should I say Bangor, North Wales. Admittedly Bangor is not exactly to everyone’s liking and hardly comes first in a good looks competition but it was the home of Bangor University and the focus would have been to study, and at my age, a wonderful 42, there wasn’t going to be any wildness or other shenanigans.

While studying in Wales I almost managed to disconnect from it physically and my only experience of what others call ‘Wales’ was through the eyes of the Welsh writers from my Welsh literature module. They say nature heals and I would also add that nature offers a very good grounding experience that doesn’t just heal but gets deep into your skin and rejuvenates you on a cellular level. It’s particularly useful if you have lost the plot and need to get back to the physical realm. As it was I had packed my bags and jumped on the train to Bangor where I would eventually jump on a bus to Llanberis. The great thing about Wales is it is not too far away from London and one can experience the glory of being amidst the mountains while not having to stray too far or pay too much.

I had booked my time at a non-descript hostel and on arrival just dropped my bags and headed into the town to get a feel for the length and breadth of it. Not too many shops. Not that much going on but as I turned a corner and walked across the road to the lake I could see the surrounding mountains appear in a panoramic vision. Their individual peaks presented to me as if they were the heads of the local nature gods. I could feel my mind and body melt into the scenery around me. I remembered attempting to read Sartre’s ‘Being and Nothingness.’ A rather convoluted and brave attempt to describe things that lie beyond our everyday reality, if you believe that sort of thing. I could barely wade my way through one chapter before the obtuse text rendered my mind helpless, and in an unintentional way, induced the kind of non-emptiness experience, the writer was trying to explain.

The small text I could remember was the bit when the man walks into the Cafe looking for someone, and at the point he realizes that someone is not there, his seeking mind stops seeking, and he becomes aware of, shall we say, the totality of the experience, until his mind starts to seek again. This was how I was feeling now among these mountains in Llanberis, being fully aware of the totality of the experience. The mountains. The wind. The lake. The sky. My coldness and thoughts. My ground. The ground of it all. A feeling of elation and it was moments like this that I was eager to seek out while here in Wales.

Snowdon and Sartre

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