To Love A Mountain
To love a mountain is to get up close and personal with it – but also it, to you.
It starts innocently at first, a glance out the car window or a set of concentric lines on a map leading like a hypnosis spiral to an X or small triangle or interesting name that draws you in. What’s up there? you wonder. How do I get there? How does it feel?
For some reason, this particular peak starts invading your thoughts and dictating your dreams. You begin to casually research routes and calendar dates, a process that can take days or weeks or months or years. You thumb through guidebooks and lose hours falling through a series of online black holes. You pepper the chosen one into conversations, now on a first-name basis with Whitney or Longs or Denali or Kili or Fitz, if you’re cheeky.
Your friends recognize and sigh with acceptance at the familiar distance in your eyes that signals a new alpine crush. Apologies are offered, but they – and you – know that once the process begins, you need to see it through. And so plans are made, gear is sorted, perhaps partners are selected, and then you’re traveling with baited breath to Where It Begins.
Whether you’re standing at the trailhead in trail runners or hiking boots or approach shoes, a kaleidoscope of butterflies flutter somewhere inside of you, tightening into a soft ball that settles in maybe your stomach or throat. It’s not unusual to let loose a giant smile, joyous howl, or small bit of vomit at this point.
Then, communion. Each step is part of the whole; the summit is never truly the endgame. Through whatever path appears – vibrant meadows, raging streams, sagebrushed deserts, shaded forests, suncupped snow – your senses burst alive, your muscles and motivation pushing you ever upward. There are no work deadlines, no lawns to mow, no bills to pay; your only obligation is the path ahead.
And finally, the top. You celebrate with a whoop or a jump or maybe emotion catches your tongue for a hovering moment.
Actually – maybe you summit, maybe you don’t. Maybe you buy the maps and guidebooks, but never even reach the trailhead. And that’s okay. Maybe this place visits your dreams and dances through your thoughts because it is beautiful and it represents the triumph of nature, and possibly yourself. A symbol of what is and what could be.
To connect with a mountain, then, is not just about ascending a peak – and it’s definitely not about conquering it.
To love a mountain is to simply make a place for it to burn bright deep within your soul.