In South Florida the only mountains that exist are the mounds of dirt and grass- covered garbage that we used to call “dumps” when I was a wee lad back on Long Island, but now they have much more exotic names like “sanitary landfills” that I am certain cause innumerable middle school boys to guffaw and blow milk through their nose. For me, mountains (and not dumps) are trips to holy places, sacred spaces, the very front porch of heaven or at least its public gardens.
I do wonder if people who live there, on them or near them, have grown accustomed to them, bored by the familiarity of their beauty, no longer held captive by the awe they inspire in one’s own heart. There on the mountains, I scour the sand, dirt and mud for stones etched over time by some mysterious hand and painted in hues of grays, translucent whites and shades of rose. Cacti in the shape of crosses grow in soil not fit for other habitation and they wait with patience for some unwary and eager sojourner like me to discover them with one’s own eyes and hopefully not by the application of one’s own backside. Small rocks loosen from the hillside with every step. I slide and fall gracefully and hysterically in alternating turns, thankfully alone and far from the eyes and smart phones of others.
There may be some healing to be found among the golden aspen and fragrant fir and pine; amidst the whisper of water gently cascading over rocks and hill and into valleys still green despite the coming chill that morning brings. The scent of wholeness dances on the breeze and I am always surprised each time the sun kisses my cheeks with its warmth. It is there, somewhere: the optimism of joy, a heartbeat of hope.
Even in such a place, the pushback of reality comes unrelenting: my knees protest every step of altitude walked and one day’s energy in stacking piles of dead trees and brush darken the subsequent day in lethargy. And every mirror reflects a face masked in a lupus-infused shade of red.
But such times find their conquerer in the Infinite, the Creator of creation still unfolding, with every horizon bearing witness that our own limitations have been set aside; we a part of that which has declared the lesser boundaries of who we think we are null and void; declares our own eyes that see ourselves diminished and diminishing merely fooled by tricks of reflection and shadow.
I journey on towards a wholeness that I cannot create for myself, but in seeking may yet find, being found by something much much greater than myself, whose strength may yet cover our every weakness, and who bears burdens we, ourselves, have tried and failed to bear. And so we sing to the One from mountain and valley, from sea and forest, from our own sacred brokenness:
“Glorious are you, more majestic
than the everlasting mountains.”