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Dec 24, 2003

The IMax Effect of North American Landscape 


There is a picture of rural America (by America I mean the North American continent, I am yet to travel to the Southern part of this continent) in my mind....the horizon kissing expanse of yellow fields with a red barn thrown in, a couple of horses grazing on the green patch by the road, an old Chevy pickup, rattling down the dust road leading away from the house hidden behind the towering oaks, it's been a long time since I saw that scene in real life. While we were in San Ramon, we used to drive the back roads into real California country, that is the piece of Californian land which had not yet fallen into the hands of greedy real estate companies looking for another piece of 'prime land' for development.

For a first time visitor, the beauty of American landscape is like seeing a movie at an IMAX movie theater after having watched 35mm movies all your life. Especially for a person like me, coming from Indian subcontinent where the scale of the landscape is mostly intimate, like the narrow twisting green lagoon corridors of Kerala or the mughal gardens of Kashmir and Himachal which miniaturize paradise in a few precious terraced acres, of course I am enthralled by those landscapes too. They epitomize another kind of beauty, of home. I am surprised 'cause Europe is s'posed to be beautiful, not America. America is the place where the modern has gone berserk, atleast that was what I thought.

American geography was a revelation of sorts in a big way, literally, the scale here is monumental. Right now, sitting with my laptop at my dining table, I can see the snow covered road leading away from our balcony, cutting across an urban corridor lined on each side with drooping conifers as if its aiming straight at the mountains pasted like a tableau near the horizon and here I am, sitting in the middle of downtown Anchorage.

We used to go for long bike rides through the farm country which lay behind the urban facade of San Francisco's East Bay, which is punctuated by rolling hills and valleys, with farms on the hills dotted with hundreds of black n white cows and an occasional park or preserve. It was the vastness of the land that enchanted me, the idea that owning a hundred acre farm does not exactly make you the biggest farmer around, chances are that you'd be the smallest one. Like the 'grande' helpings you get at restaurants across the country, everything about this nation adheres to the slogan 'think big' and I have a suspicion that it was Nature who started it that way. With its wide-screen version of the world, the physical scenery of United States is something the glossy coffee table books cannot give full justice to.

In Alaska, the American landscape is presented in the grandest of all grand scales. Forget about you the fact you are in United States, it is 'specially easier if you can comfortably turn a blind eye to the the well maintained highway which led you till this last frontier. My friends who pride themselves to be real Alaskans warn me not to consider any place accessible by road as a part of real Alaska. The great wilderness of Alaska they say, lies beyond the reach of the ordinary motorist like you and me. For me who has just started learning the Alaskan primer, even the places I can access on four wheels leave me speechless, mountains that start straight off from sea, the white vastness of the endless tundra in the winter, pristine forests bursting off in all colors imaginable during the spring, golden hues of the fall, every season it is like being in a new place, and I'd have hardly ventured out of my own backyard.

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