"My father considered a walk among the mountains as the equivalent of churchgoing." -Aldous Huxley
Since I can remember, my life has involved mountains. Being in them, learning about them, photographing them, hearing stories from my father and brother who were passionate mountaineers, and learning to appreciate them in many ways.
As a family, we would frequently go to Colorado to explore the wilderness. It was something I always took for granted, as children do. In the past couple years however, I have been able to understand this favor my parents did for me. They instilled a sense of respect and wonder for the natural world deep in my soul. A sense of play and wild and peace outdoors.
Life happens and traditions fade, but my love for mountains and nature has never dissipated. In the fall of 2015 I was able to return to The Rockies for the first time in too many years. I've been to many healing and transformative places, but what healed and transformed here was quite different. Nearly every day I had some sort of realization about life. There were many times of solitude, surrounded by stillness and rocks. And colors that only exist in these natural places. It's sometimes difficult to express how a place on our planet can change you. So all I can do is give thanks.
If I can give a tip to anyone dealing with feelings of fear, uncertainty, instability or the like: go back to basics. Pack a day-pack and go sit in a pretty place, untouched by man. Do this for a day. You will find clarity. And at the very least, you will realize how tiny you are and how most of your problems are very small. That everything will be okay.
"One day's exposure to mountains is better than cartloads of books. See how willingly Nature poses herself upon photographers' plates. No earthly chemicals are so sensitive as those of the human soul." -John Muir
In this entry I would like to share with you some photos from that trip and some stories as well. I dream of these mountains every day and hope that they can inspire you to do big things. To be courageous and to grow.
The above photo was taken on the hike to Longs Peak. I did this with my brother, who happened to be in Colorado too. I didn't have much time to acclimate to the elevation, having arrived only a day prior. I also had never hiked with my brother before. There is a bit of an age gap between us and I have always looked up to him for his adventures. So it was a very exciting experience to be invited along. We started hiking around 3:30am I believe. It was very dark and we used headlamps for quite some time. The elevation gains were fast. You could see headlamps miles in the distance, just by looking up. We certainly were not alone, but the sense of solitude was magnificent.
I was unsure on how my body would react to the elevation gains. After a few miles, it got tough. My head began to ache and I started to feel quite dizzy. So I ate a bit and kept going. Reminded that it's a huge skill to hike a 14er and that you must respect and honor everything about the experience. We are just humans, after all. What do we mean to a mountain? Nothing.
We made it to Chasm Lake right before dawn and were able to experience one of the most beautiful sunrises imaginable. Everything turned solid gold for a handful of minutes. Gold that could not be imagined or photographed or described. Nothing else existed. We hung out for a bit trying to capture what was happening. Alone in a world of gold, my mind started to turn inward and I knew something had to change. I was never ever going to be the same. Because what I was seeing and feeling and breathing in; those are what life is about.
On this hike I understood my place in the world. And I am so grateful for that. It's a lesson you could read a million books about, talk to hundreds of gurus and masters and still not comprehend. But giant rocks will show you. It is empowering to be so inconsequential.
The landscape changed as the sun became full. Ever beautiful. I do believe my mind was being blown from start to finish. I made some very bold choices about where I wanted my life to go. And knew that there was no going back to my life as it had been.
In the days to come, I was reminded of Longs Peak and the new me. That scary feeling of change: letting go of so much.
“Mountains seem to answer an increasing imaginative need in the West. More and more people are discovering a desire for them, and a powerful solace in them. At bottom, mountains, like all wildernesses, challenge our complacent conviction – so easy to lapse into – that the world has been made for humans by humans. Most of us exist for most of the time in worlds which are humanly arranged, themed and controlled. One forgets that there are environments which do not respond to the flick of a switch or the twist of a dial, and which have their own rhythms and orders of existence. Mountains correct this amnesia. By speaking of greater forces than we can possibly invoke, and by confronting us with greater spans of time than we can possibly envisage, mountains refute our excessive trust in the man-made. They pose profound questions about our durability and the importance of our schemes. They induce, I suppose, a modesty in us.” -Robert Macfarlane
I have been blessed by the mountains. Early mornings spent in them, before people show up. Before animals begin to stir. Before the lakes begin to ripple beautifully with the rise of the sun. In the chill before the heat of the day.
My passion for mountains and nature is strong. There are so many reasons for this. I wish that I could spill my thoughts and feelings as easy as I pour my coffee. But the words fail me. All I can do is give thanks. Give my heart and soul and energy to the places that make me wake up to what is actually important and true and real. The places that remind me of our humanity. Our smallness. How silly we all are. It's devastatingly magical.