It was a strange Kendal this year, with more sombre themes than usual. Ian Almond reflecting on the choices he made that left him alone and broken despite his climbing achievements, or Himalayan guide David Morton ‘taking his son to work’ in Nepal and challenging that relationship, or the beautifully filmed but strangely empty Escape with a Rwandan refugee in Canada struggling with his parents expectations, but then discovering that it was his friends and family who kept him going. Despite the over resolvedness of the film, the stark message of ‘10 years out’ a widow raising a family in the aftermath of her husbands suicide, is that we live for the sake of others, and we go on living because the cost of our absence to them is greater than we can imagine. The tension between the two slightly self indulgent characters in ‘The longest hole’ illustrated the inherent selfishness in adventure, that we travel to get away, but for better or worse our adventures is defined by the people that we are with.
The Festival trailer was good this year on the theme of ‘Connections’ but never resolved this same tension that adventure brings. We go and we often go alone. We go because of our conflictedness, finding something purer there, a clearer sense of achievement. But we discover that the thing that makes life living is the relationships we left behind.
That isn’t to render the adventure without worth, but that it is simply the thing that allows us to come back down the mountain with fresh resolve to live well in the complexity, and to invest in the relationships without which life is really a wilderness .