On This Mountain

Entry by: Godai41

3rd April 2015
Back in the days they all thought ascending mountains meant something in the multiverse. No matter where they happened to reside, humongous, throng-filled city, suburban area, even country village within plain sight of the mountains, a mystical pull drew all to try their hand at ascending the mountains. For college students, especially, the mystique of the mountain had spiritual and even medicinal qualities. When a relationship went sour, a study area wasn’t working out well, or just some discouragement with the setup of the planets, the mountain drew them. Some would just visit for an hour or even only a few minutes; others would spend entire nights, even in frigid zones, to receive the benefits. South Mountain in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania called everyone from raw undergrads, to harried graduate students, even to disillusioned faculty members trying to teach their first grad courses or write their first books.

Frivolity often enticed would be mountaineers in their 20’s and early 30s. Besieged by crowded cities and arduous work schedules, these climbers weekended in groups to nearby hiking trails, especially those overlooking important rivers. These one-day, even several hour ascents, allowed the partying hikers to return home saying they had climbed a mountain that weekend. The more industrious or more adventurous ones unfolded their sleeping bags and slept near their fellow climbers atop the mountain. Delaware Water Gap became one such magnet for weary New Yorkers and Philadelphians. What would Franklin have said other than don’t oversleep; there will be sleeping enough in the grave?

Others traveled to or found the mountains they worshipped while traveling. Sometimes the mountains made themselves known in totally unexpected ways. Taking a train from more level ground to the gradually higher areas en route to Puno in Peru, one often didn’t discover the true heights one reached until unwisely devouring a full meal upon arrival. The mountain then identified itself to the bed-ridden victim with the extremely unstable stomach, making said victim even unable or unwilling to pronounce the verdict “soroche.” Locals would then too late disclose the special tea the mountaineers of the region knew of that if taken on arrival would have prevented the young one’s downfall. If they had known, would they have instead tried out Macchu Picchu, and there observed the lithe movement of a native climber who would literally run down the mountain through thick forests, beat the hikers to the bottom, and then ask for a propina or tip from those who had walked down the trail and spied the speedy descending one en route? What a career, eh.

Another mountain remains, perhaps more arduous than any of those we have traveled in this rumination. Indeed, as one arrives at life’s mid-point, or what at least may become life’s mid-point, one may encounter dismaying signals of “what’s next” or “what have I done here” so far? What will I do with the remaining time, however long that lasts? This ascent, within descent, makes one pause to catch his or her breath. It may not have the Lear “undo this button” immediacy, but as it makes the climber pause and consider if he or she should try out the career I always wanted and never went after, the ascender feels a fluttery imbalance. Can I, will I, still write the novel or novels scribbled in my heart and brain? Should I still attempt to life myself up to the career, be it social worker, Buddhist venerable, or even medical doctor I always envisioned myself becoming? Sometimes even a seemingly simpler question emerges through the clouds: why haven’t I ever returned to the cemetery in Tacna where my mom’s remains remain?

The questions themselves have significant height to them, answered or unanswered. The sly, lithe mountains, even without Hemingway’s assistance, have drawn themselves deeply into a new territory: the hearts of the would-be- Kilimanjaro ascender.

Mountains, apparently real, Jungian, or simply miles of aloneness along the bus route to Dhrawasala, mark beginnings, middles, near-ends and a myriad of life epochs in between, and simply tell us who or what we are, what we seem or yearn to be, or what we may live long enough to become.