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The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen

The Snow Leopard (1978)

by Peter Matthiessen

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I have been fortunate this year, in that I have read some exceptional books. This is one more in that list.

The book tells the story of Peter Matthiessen's trek in the Himalaya Range in search of the fabled snow leopard.

It is a journey that is difficult, because of the terrain, and the lack of equipment that was to become available in the succeeding decades.

It is a journey that is difficult, because it is as much an inward, spiritual one, as it is a physical one. This is as it should be. To be in nature means to be one with nature. To be allowed the silence between the spaces to reflect is an opportunity that is granted to few of us.

His writing style is sparse, yet it draws you - the reader - in. It is a journey that grips you. At the end, you can wish that you were with Peter on that journey. ( )
  RajivC | Feb 16, 2019 |
Still haunting. I was somewhere under the Pacific when I first read this penultimate line:

"The path I followed breathlessly has faded among the stones; in spiritual ambition, I have neglected my children and done myself harm, and there is no way back. Nor has anything changed; I am still beset by the same old lusts and ego and emotions, the endless nagging details and irritations - that aching gap between what I know and what I am."

(257-258 of the Folio edition)

I shuddered reading that the first time as a single unattached 25 year-old. Now, twenty years on, it echoes still. I can't imagine that voyage after the death of a partner leaving the children for others to manage for months on end.

An immensely powerful book, perhaps in my lifetime top ten. Read it. ( )
  kcshankd | Jul 4, 2018 |
Spectacular. ( )
  leahlionheart | Jun 7, 2018 |
(Audiobook is abridged, despite the cover saying it is unabridged.)
  rakerman | Oct 23, 2016 |
A healthy mix of travel memoir and Buddhist doctrine. Some of the sociological commentary is poorly footnoted and suspect, but thought provoking nonetheless. I read this about 15 years ago, and was not all that impressed. I like it a lot more this time. I think the contrast b/t the two main subjects is a great dichotomy. ( )
1 vote delta351 | Oct 13, 2016 |
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That is at bottom the only courage that is demanded of us: to have courage for the most strange, the most singular, and the most inexplicable that we may encounter. That mankind has in this sense been cowardly has done life endless harm; the experiences that are called "visions," the whole so-called "spirit-world," death, all those things that are so closely akin to us, have by daily parrying been so crowded out of life that the senses with which we could have grasped them are atrophied. To say nothing of God.
—Rainer Maria Rilke
Nakagawa Soen Roshi
Shimano Eido Roshi
Taizan Maezumi Roshi
in gratitude, affection, and respect
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In late September of 1973, I set out with GS on a journey to the Crystal Mountain, walking west under Annapurna and north along the Kali Gandaki River, then west and north again, around the Dhaulagiri peaks and across the Kanjiroba, two hundred and fifty miles or more to the Land of Dolpo, on the Tibetan Plateau.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0143105515, Paperback)

In the autumn of 1973, the writer Peter Matthiessen set out in the company of zoologist George Schaller on a hike that would take them 250 miles into the heart of the Himalayan region of Dolpo, "the last enclave of pure Tibetan culture on earth." Their voyage was in quest of one of the world's most elusive big cats, the snow leopard of high Asia, a creature so rarely spotted as to be nearly mythical; Schaller was one of only two Westerners known to have seen a snow leopard in the wild since 1950.

Published in 1978, The Snow Leopard is rightly regarded as a classic of modern nature writing. Guiding his readers through steep-walled canyons and over tall mountains, Matthiessen offers a narrative that is shot through with metaphor and mysticism, and his arduous search for the snow leopard becomes a vehicle for reflections on all manner of matters of life and death. In the process, The Snow Leopard evolves from an already exquisite book of natural history and travel into a grand, Buddhist-tinged parable of our search for meaning. By the end of their expedition, having seen wolves, foxes, rare mountain sheep, and other denizens of the Himalayas, and having seen many signs of the snow leopard but not the cat itself, Schaller muses, "We've seen so much, maybe it's better if there are some things that we don't see."

That sentiment, as well as the sense of wonder at the world's beauty that pervades Matthiessen's book, ought to inform any journey into the wild. --Gregory McNamee

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:53 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

"In 1973, Peter Matthiessen and field biologist George Schaller traveled high into the remote mountains of Nepal to study the Himalayan blue sheep and possibly glimpse the rare and beautiful snow leopard. Matthiessen, a student of Zen Buddhism, was also on a spiritual quest{u2014} to find the Lama of Shey at the ancient shrine on Crystal Mountain. As the climb proceeds, Matthiessen charts his inner path as well as his outer one, with a deepening Buddhist understanding of reality, suffering, impermanence, and beauty."--Publisher information.… (more)

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