Amy Irvine McHarg is a beautiful writer. We asked her to write a post about what she cares about and to remind the readers of the Patagonia catalog to look for her essay “Seeing Red” in your mail soon. "Seeing Red" is one of a series of essays written by fine writers as part of Patagonia's current environmental campaign, Our Common Waters.
From Le Midi-Pyrenees region of France, September 2011
[Painting from the Chauvet cave. Photo: HTO, via Wikipedia, used under Creative Commons license.]
I am standing in a cave that one enters from a steep and riotously lush hillside in the southwest of France. I have been to this region before, then as a nomad climber, to scale (or flail on) its steep and sublime walls of limestone. This time I am here to explore beyond the surface - a kind of descent in place of ascent - into subterranean concavities opened up over millenia by the persistent passage of water. Come to think of it, the process is not unlike how the finest one-finger pockets, or mono doigts, were created on the exterior walls - that is, if you don't count the ones drilled out by climbers who fancied themselves, debatably, as great sculptors of stone.
Here in Grotte de Niaux, there are paintings of animals that undulate on walls, shimmer in shadows. Horses, bison, and ibex move as if they are emerging from some other, even more interior, kind of realm. About the master craftsmanship of such ancient paintings, dated back to the Upper Paleolithic, Picasso said something to this effect:
Since then, we have learned nothing.