Together we walk up into the pink-green hills, and find that Nan Shepherd was right. You do not climb to this place to backward – outward. It is a place for looking in, peering forwards and wondering at what lies ahead.
Here, where the bones of the earth are laid high and bare, the world whispers in my ear. I can barely understand the words, but each time I listen the meaning grows a little clearer. I think it tells me that time is meaningless – all but lost when the mountain draws you out of yourself. What does a second, an hour or even a day matter to a mountain?
I sense the presence of Winter in this place, even though it is Summer now. I can feel its touch even in its supposed absence, like a lived-in house when the people are away. Night, day, or the golden edge that splits them. Summer, Autumn, Winter, Spring. Rain, Wind, Thunder, Snow. I can feel them all – this place is made of such things.
We sweat in the warm evening wind while climbing higher, until we reach a place where cold, clear water joins its own voice to the the whispering wind. We throw ourselves in and gulp down what the mountain has to give, and doing so make a part of it part of ourselves. Never was any draught better – for here is the true water of life.
The voice of the water is different to that of the wind – stronger and constant within its tumbling notes. It sings a song that’s been going on forever. The sound of water started with the first movement of eternity and will thread its way through until the utter end, yet I am present to hear a snatch of this song, by some wonderful chance.
There in the mountain we sit, and I wonder as always if my fear of such troubling beauty will send me running, or if my boldness will carry me forward from here. Both are me. I must be like the mountain though, and be all of myself. Here in the mountain you can’t hide any part of yourself.
Boldness then, but tempered, and we head toward the setting sun. Ten winters maybe since I first came this way, a fool in crampons groping his way homeward through a white darkling void. But tonight is no raging storm like then – the door is open to the great blue sky that lies out above the world’s folds. The mountain has taught me much since then. Much, but by no means all.
Would that I could reach that over-bold boy as he prayed his way through the seeming nothingness. That I could raise a hand from my bouldery recliner in greeting, meet his eyes and give a nod just to show that he’ll be ok. Then each of us would look to our feet once again, and be about our ways – him to the journey outside, and me to the journey within.