This is to mountains. Mountains big, mountains small. Mountains dry and mountains lush. Mountains famous and hills unknown. Chamonix to Les Ecrins, Benasque to l’Ariege. The jagged peaks in Asturias and the rolling hills of Alicia, Bohol.
And of course Guadarrama – the mountains of my heart.
You know that most of my life I could see the Sierra from my bedroom window? I told my children recently.
Only there’s progress and construction in my neighborhood and soon another building development will block the view.
Like many, I owe a large bit of my spiritual life to mountains. Knowing that effort leads you somewhere with views, which essentially has been true for me and is a lesson I try to spread. Being patient: with the weather, with myself, with my companions. Staying alert to the smallest things in the biggest of places: a fountain that unexpectedly survives in the heat of the Summer, butterflies, the traces of boar in the fresh snow. Enjoying solitude as much as companionship. Perhaps most, being thankful for being out there, in nature. Alive.
Mountain activity, modest as it may be, teaches you the priceless lesson that it’s not all up to you, that beauty is a gift to be cherished but not expected, that love and inspiration are beyond all plan and register.
It’s also given me the best excuse to explore a wealth of knowledge about my planet: geology, erosion, weather patterns and the ever changing life of snow cover.
Philosophically, looking at mountains and spending time on the trails taught me to be a Platonist rather than an Aristotelian. I found that there’s good and there’s better, lowlands and highlands, and that summits are like the Good: essentially barren, but worth being pursued.
And it’s true: lately I’ve flirted with flatter landscapes, especially tropical ones. What can I say. I enjoy riding a scooter and gazing at a sea of palm trees with a sea of blue in the background. I also acknowledge the beauty of the sea, the blue and the bluer, but somehow find that even the most transparent waters opaque. Please give me some views from above. More so, please make me earn them.
Whatever detours I may take, the hills will remain my place to go back to. It’s comforting to know they were there before, and will remain there after: after youth, after love, after life. After all that matters. That matters.
Visit them, dear reader. On foot, on skis, on your mountain bike. Run, speedhike or take it slow; go solo or with your company of choice. Each form of love delivers its own unique pleasures.
But please, leave no trace. Return home with only memories, tiredness and, why not, some trash picked up along the way.
The trace will be left on you, no trash, and hopefully will remain.