I was six. My dad was 54… He had taken me to a place near our house in Alabama that geologically were the absolute end of the Appalachian Mountain foothills. As in, THE END, the foothills are no more.
I remember looking up with a sense of awe at how huge this mountain was and how I couldn’t wait to climb it. My dad called it Brown’s Mountain. It was in reality known as Baxley Hill to the fine folks at the USGS and I found out in later years about 400 feet tall. But to me it was Mount Everest. And a love affair began!
But like a lot of love affairs, they can tend toward being on again, off again. I still explored, adventured, and hiked the Alabama(and later Florida) woods but didn’t really climb very many mountains. Mainly because Alabama doesn’t have many!
But about two years ago, I moved to Phoenix, Arizona, in particular Cave Creek. When I first moved here, mountains scared me. I thought I would fall. And die. But like most things in life, I began to notice that if I got up and just WENT, that everything seemed to work out well in the end. I began to get stronger and more confident. But most people feel that. I want to share with you some other things that I have learned from mountains. Things like core values and things that all humanity can benefit from.
“Have patience with all things, But, first of all with yourself.” Saint Francis de Sales
Patience- I recall being six years old simply wanting to charge up the mountain (hill!) In fact, when I moved here, I’d climbed a few mountains in the South, but I really just walked the trail. When I began climbing mostly off-trail and obscure mountains, is when I began to see patience in other parts of my life. See, mountains require you to stop and think sometimes. They don’t just reveal all their secrets to you immediately. They’re like a puzzle that only you know how to figure out how to assemble the pieces. And patience helps with that. Believe me.
“It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.” Leonardo da Vinci
Accomplishment- I’ve always accomplished things. Mostly smaller things. And mostly with my brain. See I’m not super physically strong, and two to three years ago I wasn’t even very fit. But I am now. Because I have accomplished most of my mountain related goals. But what I really learned from the mountains is that these are personal accomplishments. I didn’t do them for others, I did them for me. And every time I climb a mountain, it just makes me want to climb five more. And higher and steeper. This is a lot like life. We just build on our accomplishments one by one until you really look back and say, wow, I really did that.
“The soul that sees beauty may sometimes walk alone.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Beauty- OK, I am a typical guy. But mountains have taught me to appreciate the beauty in all things. Most people just see a big tall pile of rocks, but I see the equivalent of a snowflake. I’ve never seen two mountains that were exactly alike. But all of them are beautiful to me. In their own way. Kind of like humans…
“Whosoever is delighted in solitude is either a wild beast or a god.” Aristotle
Solitude- Well… I am certainly no god. But I not only delight in solitude, I crave it. I need it to recharge my batteries, recharge my soul and basically to challenge myself to learn to depend only on myself. But much like there is no silence without a sound. It also reminds me that I also need people. Genuine human interaction.
I saved the best thing that I have learned from mountains for last. It is the greatest of all things, and that is love.
“We’re born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we’re not alone.” Orson Welles
Love- Wow, where to begin. I love everything about mountains. Looking at them, climbing them, reading about them, I could go on. But that’s not really what they have taught me. They’ve taught me that even I can love something other than my family, something intangible, something not living as much as I love those other things. And that my purpose in life is to share that love with everyone else. Because if others love them half as much as I, they’ll want to climb them. Then they’ll want to tell others about them. Then they’ll want to protect them. Then they’ll clean trash off of them. Then they will ask their politicians to prioritize them and to pass laws protecting them.
Love is the single most powerful thing that we as humans can do.
But more important than even that, is that love will be passed down through the generations. Just like my father passed down to me. See, he took me to that mountain for a reason. Because he loved me, and he wanted me to love it. Now I understand.