“The mountains are calling and I must go!”
I wish those words were mine, but John Muir beat me to them. I would guess that while he uttered the words in English in the 19th century, the idea has been wrapped in the words of many languages throughout human history. The mountains call, and we go. We go for beauty. We go for clean air and tumbling streams of pure water. We go in hope of a clear and sublime view. We go to ease the claustrophobia of civilization. We go for a sense of something bigger. We go to rise above. We go to remember something lost and forget things we would like to lose.
So today, when a few of the tasks of this civilized life are done, I will grab a pack and some meager rations. I’ll gather an extra layer or two of clothing and the means to build a friendly little fire to keep me company when the sun sets. I’ll tuck in a copy of Emerson, a journal perhaps, and a flask of a favored Speyside. I’ll make sure to get the beech-wood walking stick that a Tennessee mountain gifted me years ago on a hike with my father. I’ll take as little as possible because I want my pack light. We carry enough around on ordinary days–it makes far more sense to leave it behind. I’m a music lover but no media will be going along. There is plenty of music in the wild if we open our ears to it. When I have gathered my gear I’ll point my car toward the heart of the Alleghenies in the hopes of recovering a bit of my own.
When I get to the end of the road the real journey will begin. My feet will hit the ground, I’ll find my stride, and every step towards nowhere in particular will bring me ever closer to the somewhere I seek. Short breaks along the way will allow me to take in a vista or make the acquaintance of a mushroom. Fascinating bits of Life those fungi, and sometimes tasty. Also sometimes deadly. Edible or not, the mushrooms will be safe from me (this time). This particular mountain foray isn’t about consumption. I’ll not even take a fly rod to play with my finny friends. This journey is just about the journey, though I am warning any ripened blueberries or huckleberries in advance that the “no consumption” rule does not apply to them.
At some point, I will come to a place that invites me to stay for the evening. I’ll accept the invitation and set up camp. I’ll gather some wood and eat a bit and then watch the world darken but the sky light up. I’ll sit by the fire and be drawn into the flames. How many of my kind have looked into the flames with their thoughts going everywhere and nowhere? I’ll consider the Mystery of it all and take a comfort in it. Mystery smacks of something grander. Mystery tells me that the mundane that so often shackles really is but a temporary thing. Mystery whispers of beauties beyond imagining.
Ah, yes. “The mountains are calling and I must go!”