notes on a clear moment

At 12,000 feet I stopped to scruffle the ears of the happiest dog I’ve ever seen. It was the high point of my hikes in the Rockies last week, a couple hundred feet above the freezing alpine lake where my boyfriend was swimming and hollering to every columbine and rockslide in the range.
“That’s his happiest place,” I told the dog’s owner. “Really cold lakes.” She didn’t seem to mind the whooping anyway.
We chatted about where we were from, and I let slip: “I almost didn’t come out here to Colorado.”
“Really?!” she said with more incredulity than seemed polite.
“Yeah… I kind of needed to work this week.”
She nodded in that way that says ‘I hear ya’, and then said the thing I’ve heard echoing ever since: “Yeah, but that stuff is always there.”

That stuff is always there. Always something to save for and spend on, always some voice saying you haven’t done enough. Always the world will measure you in clock punches and bank accounts – the moments you take to love and celebrate and simply be in awe, those moments are always marked ‘stolen’ on that ledger.

That ledger tries to whisper ‘the mountains are always there’ – advises trading today’s wild chances for imagined somedays when the time is right. Here, that ledger says, in work and pennies saved, is the place for a young person. Life bright is the privilege of people with heavier furniture and lots of kinds of bank accounts, whose futures are secure and whose vacation time is dearly earned. Adventures have to cost you, worried days and careful saving for everything else first.

The thing is, at 12,000 feet, with jagged heights punching ever higher, temperatures plummeting from 80 to 40 degrees after dark, wind scrubbing the trees from rock faces and leaving only miles of wildflowers – it doesn’t take an avalanche to know that nothing is secure and everything is precious unearned gift. Here are the stark and solid things insisting that these are the facts, escaping these truths an illusion; the world’s ledger lies.

It is not the mountains that are always there. It is our pretense at productivity, greed and striving and proving and obliviousness to this very real world beyond the rim of the screen – these will go on when pollution chokes the columbines and the glaciers fade.

Yet grace requires only that you accept it, and the mountains require only that you go. Test the voice, and nature will prove its falsehood to some part of you that simply knows beyond knowing. Only go.

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  1. I am rejoicing for you and the escape you made from “always there” to “carpe momento”. I regret I missed many of those moments while my children were growing up always thinking there will be time. They are grown and gone and moments never happened. I have however tried to do much better though the tyranny of work, age, and need to provide consume the biggest majority of my time. It is all balanced though by the assurance that my wife feels secure – which if she didn’t it would become another tyranny. And as we age together we are much more attentive to carpe momento. May you continue to do the same and rejoice for the opportunities, even if only a walk in the park, it is a moment to escape from the always there. Now go and “carpe momento.”
    Blessings to you.

  2. meldenius

     /  September 11, 2015

    Catching up on the blog. Beyond the wonderfully apt message is some hypnotically stellar writing. Love it.

  3. Thank you, friends.


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