Mountains are giant, restful, absorbent. You can heave your spirit into a mountain and the mountain will keep it, folded, and not throw it back as some creeks will. The creeks are the world with all its stimulus and beauty; I live there. But the mountains are home. ~Annie Dillard from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
He found himself wondering at times, especially in the autumn, about the wild lands, and strange visions of mountains that he had never seen came into his dreams.
He loved mountains, or he has loved the thought of them marching on the edge of stories brought from far away; but now he was borne down by the insupportable weight of Middle-earth. He longed to shut out the immensity in a quiet room by a fire. ~J.R.R. Tolkienfrom The Lord of the Rings
Yesterday afternoon we drove up the highway an hour or so to be witness to grander things than our own worries or the chaos of election season.
There is always that moment when we turn the bend into Heather Meadows and Mount Shuksan suddenly appears, overwhelming the landscape and everything and everyone else. There is simply nothing else to look at so I stand there gawking, forgetting to breathe.
Then I realize that I have become more self-conscious rather than less: here am I at the foot of this incredible creation, wondering at how blessed I am to be there, and that moment becomes all about me. The mountain has been here for eons and will continue to be here for eons, and I’m merely a momentary witness.
We had left behind all the divisiveness and drama and talking heads: up in the mountains there was such sheer stillness all around us – nary a breeze or a bird call or even a bug making ripples on the lakes to spoil the perfect reflection.
I brought these images back with me to remember my moment of awestruck witness. The photographic image isn’t the real mountain, it isn’t even the pristine perfect reflection. Yet it means I was privileged to watch the mountain watching me back, welcoming me home.
The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing — to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from — my country, the place where I ought to have been born. Do you think it all meant nothing, all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it now feels not like going, but like going back. ~ C. S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces
Heaven and earth are only three feet apart, but in the thin places that distance is even smaller. A thin place is where the veil that separates heaven and earth is lifted and one is able to glimpse the glory of God. ~Celtic saying
Our neighboring Cascade mountain peak, Mt. Baker, has been veiled with clouds for a number of days. I am used to this hide-and-seek with the mountain as it makes its appearance even more special when it does take off its veil.
Yesterday morning, it was shrouded in clouds but visible against the gray. What was unusual, something I had not seen before in 35 years of admiring the mountain, was a flash of sun reflection on the north side of the summit, when no sun was visible in the sky.
This reminded me of our experience last December at solstice when we were visiting our son and family in Tokyo, right at the time for “Diamond Fuji” to potentially appear.
In the misty rain Mount Fuji is veiled all day — How intriguing! ~Basho
We had the good fortune to be staying on the top floor of a business hotel just a few minutes walk from our son’s apartment, so we made sure we were ready with a camera on the few days that we might witness the sun setting directly behind Fuji, creating a diamond effect from the summit and an appearance of fire along its crest. There are many extraordinary photos taken over the years of this phenomenon — google “Diamond Fuji” and you’ll see why this is a special event.
There were cloudy evenings when Fuji made no appearance at all – there were many photographers gathered in the train station deck where Fuji is potentially visible. They would set up and wait for the possibility of catching the sunset perfectly as it settled behind the mountain. Some nights there was nothing to photograph and they would pack up their gear, ready to return the next day.
We didn’t know if Fuji would uncover enough to allow us to see this for ourselves, but we hoped it would. The mountain did give us several beautiful sunsets, none exactly “Diamond Fuji”- perfect, but enough for us to get a sense of why it is revered so much by the people of Japan.
God does unveil His glory to us perfectly if we have eyes open enough to see. He doesn’t need to use mountains, or sunlight, or the exact precise timing. He makes sure it can be put into every human hand in the form of His Word – no waiting for the right moment or the clouds to be swept away.
He found himself wondering at times, especially in the Autumn, about the wild lands, and strange visions of mountains that he had never seen came into his dreams. He began to say to himself ‘Perhaps I shall cross the river myself one day.’ To which the other half of his mind always replied ‘Not yet.’ ~J.R.R. Tolkien — Frodo in Fellowship of the Rings
When you live in Whatcom County, as we do, it is possible to cross the river (several times) over 90 minutes of two lane highway switchbacks to arrive in these wild lands, breathless and overcome by their majesty.
Visions of mountains from our dreams become an overwhelming 360 degree reality, nearly reachable if I stretch out my hand.
God touches every square inch of earth as if He owns the place, but these square inches are particularly marked by His artistry. It is a place to feel awed by His magnificence.
I am left to wonder about the wild lands, much like Tolkien’s Frodo, pondering what bridges God is building to bring us back home to Him.
He found himself wondering at times, especially in the autumn, about the wild lands, and strange visions of mountains that he had never seen came into his dreams. ~J.R.R. Tolkien from The Fellowship of the Rings
Thank God who seasons thus the year, And sometimes kindly slants his rays; For in his winter he’s most near And plainest seen upon the shortest days.
I scent my med’cine from afar, Where the rude simpler of the year October leads the rustling war, And strews his honors on the summer’s bier.
The evening of the year draws on, The fields a later aspect wear; Since Summer’s garishness is gone, Some grains of night tincture the noontide air. ~Henry David Thoreau, selected stanzas from “The Fall of the Leaf”
Wandering in a wild land of beauty,
especially in the coolness of autumn,
with the dry hot melting “garishness” of summer past,
God is most plain in these places,
His slanting rays touching
everything and all,
He loved mountains, or he had loved the thought of them marching on the edge of stories brought from far away; but now he was borne down by the insupportable weight of Middle-earth. He longed to shut out the immensity in a quiet room by a fire. ~J.R.R Tolkien from Lord of the Rings
I am so high in the windy sun, On the rock-boned back of the highest thing, That the mountains under me, every one, Are but wrinkled gestures …. westering. ~Thomas Hornsby Ferril from “One Mountain Hour”
Surrounded as we are in the northwest by so much raw and rugged beauty, I’m easily overwhelmed. My breath catches when I turn my face to these monoliths of stone and ice.
There is no sound up there except my heartbeat. No birds. Even breezes are silent with no trees or leaves to rustle. Twenty foot walls of snow.
I am content to gaze at these peaks from afar, now and again to visit awed at their feet, to listen for their stories of near-eternity.
I believe you’ll be able to say, as I can say today: ‘I’m glad I’m here.’
Believe me, all of you, the best way to help the places we live in is to be glad we live there. ~Edith Wharton from Summer
I’m reminded today and every day: I’m glad I’m here. I would choose no other place to be.
I’m especially thankful as I gaze out at this 360 degree landscape every morning and again as the evening light flames bright before fading at night.
This place — with its vast field vistas, its flowing grasses, its tall firs, its mountain backdrops — has been beautiful for generations of native people and homesteaders before I ever arrived thirty three years ago.
It will remain so for many more generations long after I am dust – gladness is the best fertilizer I can offer up to accompany God-given sun and rain.
Are we to look at cherry blossoms only in full bloom, the moon only when it is cloudless? To long for the moon while looking on the rain, to lower the blinds and be unaware
of the passing of the spring – these are even more deeply moving. Branches about to blossom
or gardens strewn with flowers
are worthier of our admiration. ~Yoshida Kenko
Sometimes the mountain is hidden from me in veils of cloud, sometimes I am hidden from the mountain in veils of inattention, apathy, fatigue, when I forget or refuse to go down to the shore or a few yards up the road, on a clear day, to reconfirm that witnessing presence. ~Denise Levertov “Witness”
Even on the days like today when the mountain is hidden behind a veil of clouds,
I have every confidence it is there.
It has not moved in the night, gone to another county, blown up or melted down.
There are more days its snowy peak is hidden
than days it is blossom-stark floating cloud-like above the horizon of our barn roof
Visitors to the farm are too often told “the mountain is right there”
as I point to a bank of nondescript gray clouds
My loving and longing for it, my knowing it is always there, in hiding,
moves me more than the days it is simply given to me.
I keep coming back to gaze, sometimes just at clouds, yearning to lift the veil, and lift my veil, just one more time.
The beauty of anticipation,
confident of fulfillment to come
to be slaked
my hunger to be
One sees great things from the valley, only small things from the peak. — G. K. Chesterton
It is all a matter of perspective
and what we perceive from where we stand:
it takes great strength and determination to climb the peak,
and look down upon the valley left far below
where even mountains seem diminished.
Yet what gives life meaning,
what encourages our faith,
and instills hope
is how we thrive while dwelling
deep in the darkest of valleys while
gazing up at the dream-like peaks.