Going to the Mountain
“You cannot stay on the summit forever; you have to come down again...So why bother in the first place? Just this: what is above knows what is below, but what is below does not know what is above.One climbs, one sees. One descends, one sees no longer but one has seen. There is an art to conducting oneself in the lower regions by the memory of what one saw higher up. When one can no longer see, one can at least still know.”
I can get so caught up in the minutiae of everyday life that I forget entirely the life of the spirit. Like all life, it needs regular tending—food for thought, the pure air of solitude, refreshing drafts of silence. Sometimes, in the breakneck pace of life in this culture at this time, I will come upon my impoverished spirit only to find it practically dead from neglect. And I wonder why I feel so scattered and irritable! One’s spirit, albeit an airy and insubstantial thing, keeps one grounded, calm and connected to life.
I grew up in the mountains of North Carolina. When I lived in their midst, I didn't give them much thought—they were always there, just being mountains. I remember once climbing to the top of Table Rock with a boyfriend, and looking out for miles and miles across several states. It was a beautiful view, but I was more interested in the boy than in expansive views. Later in life, I returned to that area to care for my mother in her final years. What I noticed most was the life of the trees on those same mountains. In spring their color was pale green, in summer, deep glades formed, pine green and lush, in autumn, the reds and yellows climbed from bottom to top until the mountains were a jubilee of color. Now, when I go there, I drive up the mountains, and park the car to look over the beautiful valley. The view is still wide and wonderful, and I am grateful to have eyes to see, and a heart to fill up on their extravagant beauty.
I am reminded that mountain climbing is an apt metaphor for living life with spirit as guide. Anyone who has climbed a mountain knows it isn’t easy; it is sometimes frightening, lonely, and confounding work. There are hardships, obstacles, and the probability of injury. At times, it feels almost adversarial, like battling a giant that must be mastered. Not everyone reaches the top. For those who do, the summit unfolds as a mystical experience; an enchanting, panoramic view of both the path up and everything that lies beyond. The person who comes down the mountain is not the same as the person who climbed up. This new person has less fear, less self-doubt, less confusion. Returning to the valley, one carries with them some of the light experienced on the mountain top. That light is meant to be shared with other pilgrims who are on their way up.
In the Spirit,