Mountains seem simple, an uplift, signs of volcanic activity or uneven erosion, but to humanity they have always been important. They mean safety from attackers, hiding places for outlaws and important ecosystems supporting game animals. Rough land has deterred settlement and kept these places less trafficked and more wild. They tower over many of our cities as gods or as a place for gods to stand to look down upon us. Looking up at them makes us feel small and when we find ourselves atop of them, looking down, we can again get the feeling of smallness as we see people like us looking ant-like far below.
Mountains are masses large enough for to make us feel small yet small enough for us to fathom. A mountain sized impactor ended the dinosaurs. We use them in common sayings like “He can move mountains” to define a large feat.
I am lucky enough to live in the shadow of a mountain. Sandia (Watermelon in Spanish), Bein Mur (“big mountain” to our Native Sandia Pueblo people) Dzi Nááyizí (“Moves-Around” in Navaho) this mountain has demanded attention from all that have come though the valleys that surrounded it. At 10,000 feet the mountain captures the clouds from the sky, forcing them upwards and cooling them to precipitation. Its collected water and snow melt adds to the rivers and the underground water stores that would make life impossible otherwise.
This mountain has been a part of my life. As a child I played on its back side. It being to the west on my home, it was part of my sunset. Its forest called me to explore them. Its snowy winter backside slopes hosted snowboarding.
When I grew up and moved to the big city I found myself on the other side. The rocky grey and pinkish granite face acted as a GPS, as I can tell with a glance at the mountain were I was in the city 5000 feet below its summit. It is a place to go to take a break from the summer heat. Our family hikes its trails and hunts wild mushrooms. Pictures of adventuring in the Sandias liter my social media albums and will will be part of my families history.
Rather then to the west the mountain is now to my east. But it is still part of the sunset as it becomes highlighted reflecting the suns final light as colors fitting of its Spanish name for watermelon.
The mountain serves as a connection to timelessness as it has been reaching to the sky far before me and will be here far after me. Living in its shadow, I have meant nothing to the mountain. The footprints I leave of its trails are nothing.
The giggles of kids going down a wooded trail are little different to the mountain than the wondering of a bear, or the careful walk of a deer. For being something that is a pile of surface crust, mountains have a way of being more than that to people. Over time we have envisioned them as the remains of fallen giants or built from the souls of the fallen. Some see the bosom of a loving mother earth. Mountains are powerful. They are defenders, providers and harsh lands, but they offer perspective and a connection to the world that is hard to fully comprehend.
If you have a mountain look up at it. Find time to explore it. Connect to it and take it all in. Understand you are not the first to gaze at it. For all of our ego a mountain is capable of making all men small both in size and in time. I think sometimes it important to be reminded of that.