‘If the snow leopard should manifest itself, then I am ready to see the snow leopard. If not, then somehow (and I don’t understand this instinct, even now) I am not ready to perceive it, in the same way that I am not ready to resolve my koan(*); and in the not-seeing, I am content. I think I must be disappointed, having come so far, and yet I do not feel that way. I am disappointed, and also, I am not disappointed. That the snow leopard is, that it is there, that its frosty eyes watch us from the mountain—that is enough.’ Peter Mattiessen, Snow Leopard
Installing Snow Leopoard onto the MacBook, brought back memories of reading The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen, one of those all time great travel books whoose ‘feel and spirit’ lives with you.
It was back in early 80’s, in what would now be called a gap year that we trekked through Nepal. It was before trekking organisations had really became established, so it was a DIY affair, with map, tent and staying in very remote villages in the higher Langtang Hemlubu and Ganesh areas to the north of Katmandu.
The Snow Leopard, along with Midnights Children were the cult books of the moment that were being exchanged passed around, often falling apart, often in sections as the fours of us shared the reading.
Reading the book in the country and landscapes that matthiessen desribed brought the book alive, and instilled the sense of his Zen approach.
Matthiessen describes a journey with George Schaller through Nepal in search of the Snow Leopard and Himalayan blawal (bue)sheep, as the journey was taken shortly after the death of his wife, the book is Matthiessen’s journey, a metaphor, reflecting, through Zen, on much broader matters of life, death and existence itself.
So whilst Snow Leopard was being installed, I rummaged through the loft and found the very ear-torn and battered copy to reread… and out fell some map sections with notes I made….
*Koan = A Zen teaching riddle, koans are attractive paradoxes to be meditated on; their purpose is to help one to enlightenment, for example what is the sound of one hand clapping