I watched (most of) the new episode of BBC’s Planet Earth this week. It was about life at the poles and was stunning. One of the overriding images from the programme was of a group of Emperor penguins huddled together in a blistering Antarctic storm, literally standing and waiting through the months of winter until the sun came again bringing warmth and food. And of the cameraman trudging for 2 miles on his hands and knees, pulling his camera through the same freezing blizzard conditions – so that we could see these pictures.
I have always been fascinated by the images of these vast wildernesses of ice at North and South poles. I would love to see them in person, but this seems unlikely and I don’t think a thriving tourist industry would be that good for either region. But it reminds me that there is still tremendous beauty in the bleakest of places. I can’t begin to imagine what the cold is like, as the onset of autumn is now sending us scurrying to our heated indoors in the UK. But I’m glad it’s there.
Another of my favourite sights is that of a bonfire (or any other ‘real’ fire). I could spend hours watching the flames – perhaps this is because I previously spent a PhD investigating combustion, but whatever the reason burning flames provide an equally beautiful but dangerous and inhospitable ‘environment’.
Although I’m in many ways a typical practical male, who tends to stick to just to the functional and bypass the aesthetic, these images do remind me that sometimes the less practical things in life can also be the most beautiful, and the world would be a poorer place without them.