Mt Washington, British Columbia, Canada
The joy of the mountain is in being here, slowing to a stop.
I take my sketchbook and I sit on a rock and face the glacier. My eyes sweep along the peaks, crisp and defined by the ice blue skies that surround them. By the time I am walking home, my hands chilled by the November winds, the peaks will be pronounced by the sun disappearing behind them. The setting sun ushers the mountains forward as though they have just walked onto the stage of a great theatre.
Sometimes the audience notices, and sometimes it does not.
Life is such a mystery.
My hands trail alongside the pen as it lays ink to paper and follows the shape of the summits. I want to draw so many peaks that I have an automatic neurological pathway that leads directly to ‘mountain ranges’ in my brain.
I want to draw peaks until I can draw them by name, as clearly as I can write their name. I drag my eyes across the peaks of the glacier, Mount Albert Edward, Mt Rutland, and my hand follows.
I compare the drawing to the mountain. What do I see? Have I noticed where the rock smoothens out, how the edge of the mountaintop juts out at a 45 degree angle? Do I see the cradle of her back, like the curve of a saddle on a golden palomino? Do I see? This is a lesson in seeing. I want to draw mountains all year.
The mountains will teach me to see, if I am willing to open my eyes.
I draw peaks powerful enough to be named, to be revered.
The silence is deep. An awareness sweeps over me. The skies are alive, the mountain is alive, the ocean below is alive, the air, the wind it is all alive and suddenly I know I am supported by all above and by all below this mountain’s base. I am invited, “Draw my peaks by name and know me.” Everything, absolutely everything is alive.
I turn each direction and I face the giants. I stand in silence. In every direction of every range I feel the mountains have a face and are communicating with me.
This is what I can tell you about the mountains: The mountains are alive. They are ancient ones, grandfathers. The mountains are Spirit, Knowledge, Compassion. The mountains are of both Heaven and Earth.
In spring the melt-off incites a muffled roar and I stand out under the stars and listen to the rush of water I cannot see. The water runs through a series of channels carved into the mountainside by the spring runoff below the feet of slowly melting snow.
In spring the water comes up out of the earth with ceremony. Water rushes down the mountainside. Water pushes its way out through the slightest crack in the rock face and sprays of mist shoot out into the crisp mountain air. Water explodes and bubbles up like a geyser out of the rocks. Waterfalls course down the vertical mountainside. Summer comes late on the mountain. Spring is a long involved season.
A season of rebirth.
Mt Washington teaches me about gestation.
In the spring I take my notebook and I sketch the first emerging buds. I return time and again to see the progress of the plants. I am anxious for the full plant and for the flowers as was I, when, as a child I visited the Prairie meadows to witness the ladyslipper unfold and share its beauty with the world.
There is no rushing the plant. I notice my impatience.
I start to take notice of other gestation patterns in my life. They are everywhere. In moving through grief, birthing a creative project, establishing a relationship. I realize there is no rushing a common set of adaptation skills. Change is all around us. It is the natural flow of life.
The mountains slow me to a stop, and in that, they are great teachers.
To be a student of the mountains, I must step outside, sit before them and listen. I find it most helpful to have a notebook and a fast moving pen.