Friday, July 3, 2009

Mortality

In some sense, i must be a mountain man.
I have spoken and thought much about the effect of the mountains on my mind, body, and soul. The Wyoming mountains are the one place (even more so than the stage) where I feel not only home, but home in the universe, in God - i actually feel God, which is something that rarely happens in the bustle of the cities and suburbs of Ohio.
It's more than meditation. Meditation is taking your mind inside - turning down the volumes of your surroundings. But in the Tetons, your volume is perfect, and the mountains, the breeze, the wildlife, the space, the brilliance of colours - it all brings the mind to the keyhole where it can contemplate God.
For me.
That's how it works for me.

God has come up already in a blog. Uh-oh. But this is about mortality ultimately anyway. So, i think you'll bear with me a little and continue on.
This lovely pic is from my last hike in Jackson. The trail to the very summit of the 9th tallest peak in Wyoming - Jackson Peak. 13,497 ft. This is early on in the hike. You get amazing views of the valley and surround mountain ranges.


A little ways up through the forest, you come to a few lovely meadowy areas that allow for gorgeous vistas of the massive Tetons.




The snow started about 1/4 mile before hitting Goodwin Lake. It was patchy at first, but shortly after this gravel field, it was constant. And deep. In the woods, it was about 2 feet most places.



Goodwin Lake is seated 3 miles up in a little bowl 1,500 feet directly below the summit. It's a gorgeous little lake, which was still mostly frozen. Not exactly a good sign for the rest of the hike.


There is something amazing about a frozen alpine lake. It is deeply still and calm. Like the calm of the dead - or the calm of the most vibrantly alive, perhaps. After leaving the lake, the trail of footprints grew tough to follow. But we soldiered on.

Losing the trail meant we had to simply forge our way through the forest in the general direction of the peak. It is an easy landmark, and so pretty tough to lose or find oneself really lost. But without the ease of the trail, we were relocated to climbing up the hill to reach the meadows instead of a more gradual slope provided by the trail.

Out here, the snow was much deeper - a good 3 feet. And it was melting, so it was tough to walk on. You tended to break through more, and many times found your leg sinking in up to the waist. But it was stunning scenery. Breathtaking in every sense. Again, without a trail to guide, we made our way up the peak. Jackson Peak has one spot that makes it easy to climb (where the trail is), so without it, we were taking more snowfields, more vertical moments, and more crawling and clawing our way across on all fours (or digging our hands into the snow).

Finally, within 45 yards of the peak we were stopped. That's the peak from where we stopped. It was a straight vertical scramble from there to the top. And in each direction were large hanging snowfields, that one wrong slip could send you down 1,500 feet to a very bad injury or much worse. So seeing it, and nearly touching, we were forced to turn back.
Our only real way back after a steady switchback route down was to slide. The last 1/3 of the mountain was too difficult to stand upright on, so we sat down and slid down to the flat meadow.



The view of the Gros Ventres ("Fat Belly's") from near the peak.
We made it down without incident, feeling exhilarated and accomplished. And cold and wet.
Here's where mortality makes its entrance.
Two weeks prior to this hike, I was introduced to the mayor, his wife, and their son at an event in Jackson. Very nice folks that I talked with for several minutes as I was sitting next to them.
Their son was an avid hiker.
He did Jackson peak the day after I did.
He slipped.
Fell.
And died.
And i find myself slightly dazed. Much thankful for every minute of my life, this reminds me. It tells me I still have more to say and do. Yet, it stings and numbs at the same time of how death constantly circles us all.
We decided to turn back because it was beyond our comfort level. Beyond our skill level for climbing. And just too much for us.
We hiked down, dried off, and I've now driven home.
He did not.
And so it could be at any moment.
And so, you are all my friends reading this. We all get caught up in our days/lives and details. When what really really matters is none of that. None of that at all. It is this. Friendship. Relationship. Human experience. Laughter. Conversation.
Everything else is meaningless.
I will try to help remind you of this. Can you help me?
Namaste.

4 comments:

  1. Yes.



    And thank you. For sharing. All of this.

    Whenever I've seen pictures of the west--mountains, the wilderness--from you or other friends I know who've been out there, my gosh, it's like homesickness for a place I've never been.

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  2. Be careful!!!!!!

    and...


    I’m thinking you forgot, Family.

    After many years of searching for fulfillment – I’ve come back, full circle.

    I've found my Family.... again.

    (imo)
    Love starts with God first, family and friends (that are chosen family) then experience of such.

    Though I miss my friends dearly (especially, lately)

    I'm so glad I'm back at the beginning.


    :)

    A.


    Music: Zach - Own Your Own

    ReplyDelete
  3. ON your own, even.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Beautifully said.

    ReplyDelete