Please Let Me Stay on the Mountain Forever

Mountains make me feel brave, scared and safe all at once.

Colorado 2009.

I’m not sure when I first loved the mountains, but I’m pretty sure it started somewhere in Eastern Colorado circa summer of 1988.  It was before the time of ‘kids in the back seat and buckle-up!’ and so I was sitting on my Grandpa’s lap in the front of their van squinting my five year old eyes tightly, as I gazed out the windshield onto something way far off in the hazy west.  He said they were mountains but I was sure they were clouds. They proved to be mountains. We spent a week camped out in Rocky Mountain National Park–my parents, sister and I in a tent and my Grandparents in their van camper.  My Grandparents loved the mountains too.  They had been there many times with my Dad when he was young–hiking, and camping and driving scenic mountain roads, with sharp drop offs, that make your toes curl.

This is one of my favorite ‘before me’ pictures of my Daddy, standing on the mountain.

By the time they returned there with my sister and I, their familiarity rubbed off I think; it felt like the most natural place in the world to be.  We hiked, we drove up the same toe-curling roads, we waded in ice cold water till our feet ached numb, we went to ranger led campfire evenings and learned songs, ‘I love the mountains, I love the rolling hills…’ I peed in a water fall… and went wading in my underwear.  What’s not to love about the Mountains? My Grandpa was right–they were mountains; I might have been right too–they were the clouds of Heaven.

Hiking with two of my besties in Colorado. Aren’t we cute? Ok, cute for 13 year olds?

We returned to Colorado many times after that first trip–it was our most consistent family camping location. We came with friends, my parents brought church youth groups on a couple of occasions,  and then  other times we came just as a family.  The mountains in the Colorado Front Range remain, to this day, my favorites.

My most recent Colorado hiking experience.

So naturally one of my favorite movies as a little girl, was about the mountains.  I’m not sure how I saw this movie–I had access to four channels of TV up until the age of 18  (the fourth one was always iffy depending on the ‘rabbit ears’ working well).  So I’m not sure if I saw this movie from the library, or if it happened onto one of the four (ish) channels. I somehow saw it a couple of times though, and I was secretly obsessed.  It was the 1978 version of Heidi.  I found it on YouTube the other night and teared up while I watched it was super excited to see it again. Don’t judge–it’s golden. Really.

Ok…maybe you had to be under 10 with only four channels to love it.  *ahem* But still… “Please let me stay on the mountain forever”  Although up until a night ago I could have sworn it was ‘Please let me stay in the mountains forever!’ But close enough….my childhood remembered is still sappy.

Driving through the Canadian Rocky’s last summer.

The mountains make me feel safe and brave possibly because of so many lovely childhood memories, or possibly because they are the symbolic essence of strength and impossibilities made possible by faith.  (You can move a mountain with faith.) That being said, I understand the mountains are fierce.  I’m reading Forget me Not by Jenni Lowe-Anker right now.  I skimmed ahead a couple of chapters yesterday to the part where her husband doesn’t come home.  He was a great mountaineer claimed by an avalanche in the Himalaya’s.  I’m about a third of the way through the book, and it’s beautifully written but hard for me to read–possibly due to it’s great depth of emotion (I knew how it ended before I picked it up) or possibly because it’s about people who also love the mountains.  Sometimes the mountains are fierce and it scares me.

My Grandparents and Daddy driving through Canada on the way home from Alaska…circa …sometime when bugs were prevalent.

I remember reading an essay by C.S. Lewis a few years ago about why he wasn’t a pacifist.  In the start he listed the reasons people are pacifist…the obvious being that war kills people.  Lewis pointed out that war isn’t the cause of people dying…people who are alive on this planet die and war simply reminds us that it’s a possibility. He actually argued that being reminded that life is brief can be a good thing.  He had other cases regarding the pacifist thing, but when I was thinking about the danger of the mountains I was reminded of that idea.  Mountains don’t kill people either–people die because that’s how life is.  It’s hard to understand, but there isn’t a guarantee of  long life.  When people leave (no matter how old they are, or how they go) it almost always seems too soon; some things make us aware of how fragile we are in the world.  Mountains remind me of being fragile.    Sometimes it scares me, and sometimes it makes me feel braver.  Paradox.  There’s a lot more to be said on the subject of mountains, people who hang out there, the risk, and the beauty. But for today I note that the mountains are paradox… beautiful paradox.

Emerald Lake in Alberta.