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Watching

On a trip to Iceland, I began observing the rituals of nature tourists vying for the appropriate panorama and looking for a spot of release and contemplation. Whether it is on any of the far-flung corners of the earth or on this cluttered island, the nature tourist will engage in the act of looking for a fleeting sense of wonder and a sublime sight – watching as an observer from afar to be absorbed in a wilderness fantasy.

It is one of our cherished illusions that there is still an Eden out there, a place, unspoilt and untouched, like a fragment of paradise. Before the Fall, it is widely believed that we were at one with the natural order. This illusion is sold to us daily, as one of our ultimate aspirations, through the mass media, on countless billboards and magazines pages. These images sell the icons of an alternative existence: landscapes we rarely see but feel the need to experience. In most encounters with nature, we often resort to forget that it is man-made to experience what we most commonly look for in nature - an experience that is "Other" than us in order to escape the urban constrictions of our lives. In an island such as the British mainland, we are pushed even more to the margins of the landscape to be able to recover a sense of isolation and the experience of nature is reduced to a weekend trip in search of the picturesque where we watch set apart from the natural world.

Essay (.doc)