An ode to mountains
I love mountains. Maybe it has something to do with my consistent trips to the Rockies as a child. But I’m learning that I definitely want to live somewhere with mountains nearby. Some of my happiest memories are from places with mountains. From the early years in Colorado to my pivotal adventure in Salzburg. From my first solo traveling experience in Peru to my recent exploits in Beirut. In the mountains I feel comfortable, I feel at home and I don’t want to leave.
Maybe it’s the air. Down by the sea the air can feel heavy or humid. The salty breezes leave me feeling dirty and the smells leave much to be desired. In the cities there might be pollution, sometimes so much you can see the blanket it creates in the distance. The concrete jungles have a way of making the air denser, giving off a trapped impression. But in the mountains you can raise yourself above the smog or the heat. The scent is fresh and the wind feels clean and brisk. The natural air gives a natural high that you simply can’t find on the ground.
Then there is that ineffable sensation that comes when you summit a mountain after a long morning hike. The air might be thin and cool but the sun will gently warm your skin as you gaze on the breathtaking panorama that you worked so hard to see. That feeling of achievement only grows when you squint your eyes to find where you started the trek. And in that moment time is suspended as you take in that surreal scene and experience that pristine atmosphere. The right mountaintop is a refuge from the far-reaching arm of concrete and machines that litter the world below. From that peak there is comfort and solace that can’t be easily found elsewhere.
Perhaps it’s that serene feeling you get when you look down and see the world from a new perspective. From up high everything looks smaller and seems less important in that moment. When you can see for miles, the urge to see the bigger picture in more than just a literal sense nags at you. Mountains are places to gain clarity and practice introspection.
Or maybe it’s the metaphorical nature of that winding mountain road. I was reminded the other day how that drive reflects the road we take through life. It has its ups and its downs and its twists and its turns. Life speeds up when things are going well and you’re moving uphill and when life is going downhill it always seems the foot is on the brake pedal. It’s a tough ride that will jerk you around and you never can know what’s beyond that next bend because it’s just out of sight. It might be a beautiful moment of peace and smooth sailing, or it could be an unexpected obstacle approaching fast. You might hit some bumps on that road and they’ll wake you up in case you were drifting to sleep. The drive, like life, will always keep you guessing and at attention. There will be moments of amazement as you reach a gap in the foliage and it appears the whole world is there for you to see. The next moment it will disappear as you are once again shrouded in the shade. It’s not an easy ride and at some parts it’s simply no fun at all. But you can always trust the road will bring you to where you need to be. And like in life you will find comfort in that place, and if you’re lucky and willing you will stay there. But either by choice or by necessity you will just as likely find yourself on that road again heading toward the next adventure.