Monday, February 14, 2011

Open Country

Over the weekend, I watched an inspiring, beautiful film called 180 degrees South. In 2007, the mountaineer-surfer, Jeff Johnson set out to re-create the journey of Yvon Chouinard (the founder of Patagonia clothing) and Doug Tompkins's summit of Corcovado, in the Chilean Patagonia. The 1968 footage of Chouinard's van road trip to Patagonia, South America was stellar, and brought me back to my youth when we set off on road trips from the midwest to Anywhere, USA in search of new experiences and people; and our travels through eastern European countries where you slung your guitar over your back, stuck out your hitch-hiking thumb, and traveled by the seat of your pants. In your youth, you don't need a plan; you don't need to know where you're going to stay and for how long...if you did, you'd miss out on the many invaluable,  serendipitous moments that bely any travel agent's lofty recommendations.

Jeff and his buddies move through life on the wings of adventure, seeking out rock to climb and waves to surf. The photography is simply stunning. But more than that, we are privy to Jeff's deepest reflections through the lens of the natural world; a sort of moving meditation of his awareness of the land, and people's relationship to it. His pitch is conservation: if you love a place, you have a duty to protect it. And though I believe responsible development can occur side-by-side with conservation efforts, here's the rub for some people:  today, Chouinard & his buddies are extremely wealthy, and though they donate great amounts of money to conservation programs, they depict themselves as peasants, drinking out of old tin cups, eating simple foods, living for months in stick frame cabins. Except their lifestyle is not a fabrication: these guys have spent their entire lives protective of indigenous peoples and places; they are a force against damming rivers and creating hydro-electric projects that destroy indigenous livelihoods but produce power for the wealthy living hundreds of miles away. Chouinard started out as a blacksmith creating climbing gear that had never before been created. He started a business roughing out tools he needed to climb, and the rest is history. Chouinard is an environmentalist who puts his money where his mouth on to read about their environmental efforts, travels around the world, and see their line-up of outdoor clothing and gear. One of his quotes: the hardest thing to do is simplify your life; it's so easy to make it complex.

This film is not about the Corkorkan summit (which, by the way, they did not achieve), but all the stories and experiences along the way; like life, it's not about the end, rather the journey. The soundtrack is also superb: listen to some of Ugly Cassanova:

Like Jeff, I too am drawn to open country; I've added Easter Island and Patagonia, Chile to my bursting-at-the-seams bucket list. 


  1. Hey Monica --
    We watched that movie last month and found it captivating.
    (I found your blog from a comment you left on Cindy Shake's blog.)

  2. HI Vicki! So nice to meet up with you via Cyberspace; love your jewelry designs!