Recently I heard of the death of Peter Matthiessen, the American author and naturalist at the age of 86. When I say “heard” I more properly mean “read” as it was on the internet that I obtained this sad news. One is more likely to receive news from this source nowadays rather than hearing of events as in former days or so it seems.
Like so many I had been introduced to Matthiessen’s writings by “The Snow Leopard”, a stunning physical and spiritual adventure set in the Himalayas. This is one of those books which remind me, in my godless state, of something other out there. I recall blue sheep, the incredible remoteness of destinations and Matthiessen’s strong, craggy, browned face staring back at me from the book’s cover like a latter day Saint Francis of Assisi.
I salute Matthiessen for his tireless work in the world of wildlife, his vivid travelogues, his skills as a storyteller able to engage, thrill and inform his audience, and his intelligent longevity. From the perspective of my cultural circumstances I felt there was something about him of the learning, the purity and the reverence for Nature of the early Celtic Church. It is the loss of a keen focus in a world where much does not get even a second glance.