The Beautiful, The Sublime, and Me:
Walking On the Malvern Hills and in Southern Austria
During the three years that I was writing my book Walking into Alchemy: The Transformative Power of Nature, I became more and more convinced that there is no better antidote against stress and mental strain. There is no better medicine available than to be confronted by the beauty of an undulating hill or the feeling of awe that the sublime power of a mighty mountain brings.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and during the long months of lockdown, I have been able to maintain some sense of self and reduce my stress levels by remembering my year of walking, keeping myself fit by gardening and anticipating the moment when I can challenge myself once more to walk further, longer and higher in the future.
My journey to this realisation really began when I was in my teens. I used to take myself off and up into the Malvern Hills. I was very lucky because there was a small path from our back garden that led to St. Anne's Well; at that time not open to the public and, therefore, little known. I was, of course, miserable and these solitary meanderings helped me in ways that I could not possibly fathom at the time. I relished being alone and away from the madding crowd, not that Malvern was exactly rowdy, but I found that wandering aimlessly was very helpful and addictive. Looking back on this now, I know that was partly because I felt safe there, and I admired the Malvern Hills for their beauty, for they are, in fact, Beautiful. They are tamed and offer an example of the perfection of Nature very much in the 18th Century model. The hills are mainly shorn of trees and shrubs; the paths are neatly trodden by the million pairs of feet that have traversed them over the centuries. I felt soothed because it made me feel that Man was in control of Nature and that the landscape was there for me, not savage and red in tooth and claw but ordered and manageable. This, I found calming, and it made me feel better. Walking the Malvern Hills again is still something that I look forward to with eagerness because they hardly change – perpetually beautiful and consistent.
When I became a Keeper of Art twenty years after those teenage wanderings, I learnt about the Beautiful and the Sublime. Edmund Burke's Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (1757) classified the Beautiful as something, smooth and pleasing and the Sublime, by contrast, as something which terrifies and overawes. In my teens, I knew nothing of these ideas - but I had instinctively been drawn to the Beautiful. I had, though, never experienced the Sublime in actuality experiencing it only theoretically through the paintings of the British artist John Martin and the German Romantic master Caspar David Friedrich; I had a print of Friedrich's Wanderer above the Sea of Fog (1818) hanging in my study, and I was captivated by it. But then I moved to Austria, and I began to walk in the hills and the mountains, suddenly I came to know how the Sublime felt. The intellectual became real.
Mountains have a magnificence that is beyond all possibility of calculation. During my year of walking thirteen miles every week for fifty-two weeks, I often found myself simply standing agape - awed by the scene before me - my presence just a small dot in the landscape. Sometimes it's good to be reminded that we are only a small part of this infinite universe and allow ourselves to be humbled by it. To remember that we cannot hope to tame Nature - for Nature is Sublime and magnificent and some fear of its power over us is perhaps no bad thing.
I hope that as summer develops its full awesome power that you will be able to venture out and glimpse the Beautiful and the Sublime for yourself wherever you live.
If you are reading this blog in Austria or Germany, why not support our crowdfunding campaign to help us to bring out the German edition of Walking into Alchemy - Alchemie des Gehens? The book has been hugely popular around the world and the time is right for the next step! Just click on the image below to visit the site! You can pre-order the German copy, buy the English copy or buy wonderful gifts and items from the Lavanttal Valley. If you are reading this and you live in the UK you may also find our campaign of interest and you will love our gift ideas! Please visit www.ameliamarriette.com/news to watch our drone film with English subtitles.
Walking into Alchemy: The Transformative Power of Nature is available from www.ameliamarriette.com/shop as a full-colour e-book or a full-colour signed copy. Also available with black and white illustrations from booksellers and Amazon Worldwide.
Amelia’s blog entry and film about the Malvern Hills can be found here: https://www.ameliamarriette.com/post/movie-time-in-malvern-worcestershire
Download maps here and plan a trip to the UK and walk the Malvern Hills:
Discover the Carinthian Region of Austria: https://touchingnature.co.uk/destination/austria/carinthia/
Visit Museums and Galleries in the UK to see examples of Beautiful and Sublime Art. Benjamin Williams Leader was a well-known Worcestershire Artist; examples of his “Beautiful” paintings be seen in both Worcester City Art Gallery and Museum and Birmingham Art Gallery.
“Sublime” paintings by John Martin (1789-1854) may be seen at Birmingham Art Gallery and the Tate Gallery in London.
Take a look at the work of Caspar David Friedrich
https://www.caspardavidfriedrich.orgSince the COVID-19 pandemic began, and during the long months of lockdown, I have been able to maintain some sense of self and reduce my stress levels by remembering my year of walking, keeping myself fit by gardening and anticipating the moment when I can challenge myself once more to walk further, longer and higher in the fut
Watch a short film about Caspar David Friedrich
Or watch the BBC Documentary about The Romantics