I came here to study hard things
– rock mountain and salt sea –
and to temper my spirit on their edges.
“Teach me thy ways, O Lord” is, like all prayers,
a rash one, and one I cannot but recommend.
These mountains — Mount Baker and the Sisters and Shuksan,
the Canadian Coastal Range and the Olympics on the peninsula — are surely the edge of the known and comprehended world….
That they bear their own unimaginable masses and weathers aloft, holding them up in the sky for anyone to see plain, makes them,
as Chesterton said of the Eucharist, only the more mysterious
by their very visibility and absence of secrecy.
~Annie Dillard from Holy the Firm
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,
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. My vision isn’t penetrating enough to see it through cloud cover today, but it will return to my line of sight, if not tomorrow, perhaps the next day, maybe not until next week.
I know this and have faith it is true – the mountain does not keep itself a secret.
On the days when I am not bothering to look for it, too preoccupied so walk right past its obvious grandeur and presence, then it reaches out to me and calls me back, refocusing me.
There are times when I turn a corner on the farm and glance up, and there it is, a silent and overwhelming witness to beauty and steadfastness. I literally gasp at not noticing before, at not remembering how I’m blessed by it being there even at the times I can’t be bothered.
It witnesses my lack of witness and, so in its mysterious way of being in plain sight, stays put to hold me fast yet another day. And so I keep coming back to gaze, sometimes just at clouds, yearning to lift the veil, and as a result, lift my veil, just one more time.
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