Wednesday, November 02, 2011


This thick fist of granite is tattooed with swirls of red iron rock. I sit as the sun showily sets behind me, behind a ridge of peaks punctuated by the uproar of water. Water, the only element to defy the bravado of granite – but even mere water uselessly spatters itself across the face of crags without time, gravity, and the ponderous, dangerous thaw. Their combined attacks chip away thin sliver after thin sliver, year after year, until sliding scree and dust dresses the cliffs in a skirt – covers the cut through the detritus of life which embalms the earth’s bedrock, the cut this fin of solid stone sliced above the tree line, above the clouds, above the mortal mind, almost above even time. Divinity houses itself summit ward, respectful of the peak’s puissance. This relic, this ancient alpine outlook for the bedrock below, reminds mortal matter – root and beast and human alike – of their temporality, their transient status.

Later, lying in my tent, I delight in the night terrors, in the possibility of every snapped twig, every shift in the wind. This realm belongs to mortals other than me. The bear and the cougar control this valley and I merely visit, hoping they do not spirit me away in the dark to fill their empty stomachs. But despite my hope, the fear invigorates me – risk worth reward. The reward of healthy perspective, or wonder at the world again, or pushing legs past limits and realizing that they were mental, not physical. Yet above this tableau of love, loss, hunger, and pain, the mountain takes no interest. Both challenging mortals and impartially observing their follies, the mountain is untouchable.

In the morning, the sky colors the white peak pink. Colors plucked from air’s chemicals, placed like a garland across this crown of the earth. The sky knows that wind will not win while rock still stands. For all the force wind wills on mortals, it is no more than a flutter to the bluff. So the sky worships that which sits below it, that which sits within it, that which frames its form.

When the midday sun drums down on me, the rise to those divine heights cools my beating head. The realm of the gods, looking down on earth, looking down on sky, looking down over all of mortality, welcomes me temporarily. I am not meant to stay. This realm is only for me to visit. The mountain will throw me back into my place soon enough if I attempt to inhabit her peak.

Yet, as I pick my way carefully past her precipitous cliffs, her private valleys and clefts, I perceive my place anew. I appreciate the pleasures of culture and progress. I remember the joy of potentiality. I forget the depression of presumptions proved correct – the day-to-day expectations met as nothing novel happens. Perception is so full of prior experience. Perspective is so pleased with everything happening the same way over and over. But now it all seems unique again, as I am coming down off the mountain. And I know that realization will improve my perception, my perspective, for weeks to come.

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