The wildflowers grow small up on the Rockies. I looked up their biological names when I got home, and nearly all of them were “Dwarf” species. One alpine sunflower was even named, “Old Man of the Mountain,” and isn’t that perfect? The bluebells and yellow roses are just little, old Dwarves on a Lonely Mountain.
And yet, even in the folds of the mountains, I notice them.
It feels funny to kneel down on the shoulder of the Continental Divide and look at a daisy— to enjoy the shape of its petals all turned toward the sun. Daisies grow at home, so why stop to smell them in this vast place?
But God shows no partiality. Like any artist, he uses many tools— a pickaxe as well as an embroidery needle. He hews the mountain, then settles a crown of flowers on its head.
“I dwell in the high and holy place,
and also with him who is of contrite
and lowly spirit.”
~ Isaiah 57:15
Worn-out metaphors are only worn out because they were once new and useful to writers. I call my spiritual high and low places “mountaintops” and “valleys,” without really understanding the miles between the two. Then I climb a real, cragged mountain and learn it’s a long way to the top.
I stand by a cairn on the summit with the morning sun on my face and gaze into a green valley and think how lovely it looks from here. There are little running creeks (that are probably roaring rivers). They pool into lakes that hold all the light. Pines drape the hillsides and alpine grass lies gold in the sun.
I remember back to the last mountain I climbed, when I was winding through the foothills and couldn’t hold all this in my eye at once. To use another burnt-out phrase, I couldn’t see the forest for the trees. I couldn’t even see the tops of the trees. I’d look toward the summit and long to be there, weary of the trudge and the valley and the blisters my discounted hiking shoes gave me.
But now I’ve made it after a hard and steady climb, and I can see the valley from the peak, and I understand the beauty of it in retrospect— and isn’t retrospect, or remembrance, what leads to worship?
Where are we, and how far have we come?
“I will remember the deeds of the LORD;
yes, I will remember your wonders of old…
You led your people like a flock
by the hand of Moses and Aaron.”
~ Psalm 77:11, 20
Well, mountaineering is an adventure, and every so often, everyone needs a good adventure— the kind that makes your feet hurt and calls for a walking stick.
Like Bilbo, I get stuck in my ways, surrounded by home and its comforts, the kettle singing for tea. I forget there are mountains (mountains, Gandalf!), and there are ridges between those mountains where bluebells grow along the trail. There are steep climbs over loose shale, and then there are mountaintop winds and a view of the wide Earth God made.
I was buckling my helmet to try mountain biking the day after, complaining how my legs hurt, and my brother said that sometimes, writers have to go on adventures before they write about them. He was kidding, but it’s true that Bilbo and I are alike.
Why dragons and mountains when there are books and tea?
Well, now I’ve been to the Mountain and back again, and I can tell you: The Earth is bigger than what I know, and God Almighty is too, and just as the Adventure changed Bilbo, it changes — resurrects — me.
Gandalf looked at him. “My dear Bilbo!” he said. “Something is the matter with you! You are not the hobbit that you were.”
~ J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
5 thoughts on “Three Thoughts from the Mountain”
This is so beautiful, Bethany. This summer my family stayed close to home—there was too much happening at the farm to want to go away somewhere. But I loved your words of adventuring and going out of our everyday routine to see mountains. It made me think perhaps there is value in both treasuring our everyday life and also doing what we can to awaken the kind of wonder only adventuring into a new place can bring.
yes, home is good, but adventures are too. thank you.
You never disappoint your readers…Only when you don’t write!!! You help me see deeper into life’s many new experiences. The first time I ever climbed a mountain was when I was 18, newly married and living in El Paso Texas. We scurried up a mountain that had little greenery, to see what we could see from the top. I can actually tell you that I don’t remember what I could see. I can remember being terrified that we had climbed so high and the trip down was going to be difficult. As you mentioned in your story the loose shale was everywhere! We couldn’t stand, walk or climb our way down. It was a slide and crawl adventure that I will never forget…❤
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And your writings are one of those bluebells along the trail!
This set me thinking about how living high on the mountains is to be small, both of necessity and in the eyes of the world; and then how those small plants actually achieved a greater absolute height than the tallest oak or redwood, but barely an inch of that was their own work. They did their little part, their Maker made them high.
Thank you for setting me pondering Truth and daisies 😊
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i love that.