I'm not sure what composes the magical nature of mountains, but last weekend, on a hike to Thunder Lake, in Rocky Mountain National Park outside Estes Park, I started to consider just that question.
As a computer programmer, I get the opportunity to welcome a well refined group of physical ailments. Some from lengthy durations of sitting; some from near microbial joint movement; and one, a certain type of eye strain, is brought on by focusing my eyes on a subject far too close for far too long.
No resolution appeases my pain like peering at points far away. Swivel my seat and point me towards a distant field, remote building or a far off peak, and certain relief begins to slowly overcome the strain in my sockets.
But everyone is not a programmer. This draw that sometimes lures me to mountains may never impact the average loser. Still, the mountains are vastly populated by people intent of receiving a certain mystery that speaks in some silent way directly to them.
Here's the truth: there's something there. There's something looking back at you when you stare across the range. Maybe it's just trees, but maybe it's the person you were. Maybe it's the person you want to become. Maybe it's a fresh start - an opportunity to renew. Maybe, if nothing else, it's an opportunity for you to put aside who you are for just a moment; a time that you can return to who you were, before you made all those foolish decisions, before you said all those piercing things, before the change.
I dwell sometimes on the same thing. Sometimes, according to my wife, I write too much on sadness; sometimes I write too much on computers; and, sometimes I just can't get off the wagon of how old I am. Back when the things I did wrong were cute, and the decisions I made were goofy - not irresponsible.
It's like a demographic sub-culture is injected into me when I passed a quarter century and, given time, degrades my immune system to such a point that I just sink into it.
Here's a for-example: I just read Melville's Moby Dick, a novel that sure has a lot of fans. I guess it's okay, but some things were actually quite interesting to note.
Completely fascinating was Captain Ahab's incessant passion to protect his first officer, Starbuck, and how it was equally strong as his desire to slay the white whale. Ahab, at age 78, looked in Starbuck's eyes (during a bizarre part of the story) only to see the young man Ahab wasn't - before his years on the sea, before his losses, before his crimes, before his pains and possessions, and before his life slipped through time without notice.
Tragically, I catch myself often seeing my youth in the glitter of a nostalgic keepsake sitting on some obscure shelf, peering back at me with an unexpected meaning. "Ah, when I got that," I think, "times were easier, choices were clearer and life was all around simpler." But, you see, I think that sort of thing because I am an idiot.
Now, I live in the mountains. My home's foundation rests higher than 9,200 feet over the sea. I sit at dinner catching sight of little mountain ranges and peak after peak, better than most photos, more engaging than some paintings and as stunning as the day is long.
So, why is now not as good as yesterday? I have a wife the loves me, a home that keeps me warm, a family that holds my hand, and friends enough to content my chronic episodes of loneliness. Yet, I am fool enough to consider yesterday a better time.
Yesterday, ha! My life had no direction. I was still seeking love. I hadn't learned to value family or friendships. Spiritually, I was arrogant. Physically, I was a stick. I didn't havea home. I hadn't gone to India. I drove an '87 Ford Tempo. Sheesh, I didn't even balance my checkbook! So, what's so appealing? Sounds lame.
In His creation, God left a queer concept asleep in the minds of men - the inability to accept the fact that the pleasure of the present can overbear the pleasure of the past. It's high time I face the fact that time has dealt me a hand that has more aces in it than most decks. Even stacked in my favor I hesitate to wager on the goodness of today.
Anyway, some people come to the mountains to bring a better life by and by, while other fools, as in yours truly, fester in their cursed concepts of how tomorrow could but try and compete with the past. See what I mean? Because I'm an idiot.
The last week and a few days was filled with my wife's entire immediate family. It made for a full house, full days, and some nice times. Not times as nice as, say, when I was younger, but some pretty nice times nonetheless. See what I mean? Idiot!