I thought I had seen mountains, I actually thought I had climbed a few.
Then we went to the Alps and I had to admit I hadn’t really.
My first impulse upon seeing them was to run away, back to the seaside,
to be at the same level as the sea surface again.
True, the weather wasn’t helping. Dark clouds closed the sky and threw a depressive grayish glow on the immense masses of stone around us.
While our car climbed the flanks of the mountains, the abysses became steeper, the mountain peaks toke more monstrous shapes,
and we became tinier and tinier, almost of ignorable, let’s say easily crushable, proportion.
“I imagined them differently”, I whispered carefully to my husband hoping he would be of the same opinion, turn the car around discretely and circle as quickly as possible downwards and away, but no, he was experiencing an opposite sensation. Triumphantly he scanned the landscape around us – ready to conquer the world.
In the days after our arrival, I tried his approach, tried to let the mountains boost me with energy, but under the surface I kept struggling with the question: Do I like them?
If only they could be less present once in a while… but no way, they surrounded us everywhere we went.
They obviously couldn’t care less what I thought about them, they rose far above the state of having opinions, doubts , questions: they just were 65 million years old.
After a couple of days the sun started finally shining. The whole landscape cheered up and the redish peaks stood out brightly against the heavenly blue sky, impressively instead of oppressively, but still I wasn’t assaulted by the desire to climb them, like I would want to dive in every random sea.
Of course I went up one anyway and while we were in the ski-lift, I said goodbye to all the living creatures. Goodbye birds, goodbye foxes, goodbye trees, grass, moss…and yes even goodbye mountains.
Completely unnecessary cause we arrived safely and soundly at our destination, one thousand metres higher. On my request though we started walking away from the edge immediately.
At first with shaky legs as if I had just been saved from a terrible fall, but soon my pace became more solid and swift, assured as I was by the trees growing at my left and right, followed by a (still solid, but) slower pace, since there was quite unexpectedly a lot to see.
Moss covered the wood we walked through like a royal velvet carpet (with plant decorations), softening our steps.
Roots meandered under the wood, the paths, the rocks and braided one big safety net under our feet.
A curious plant peeked at me with white flowery eyes from down under a wild bunch of leaves.
Even the reddish peaks had lost their impenetrable look and had turned into noble knights.
From close by I discovered another side of the mountain,
its magical, friendly, noble side.
Or was I influenced by the highly alcoholic drink we were offered half way up in an alpine hut?
My daughter, who always collects stones wherever we go, started handing me big pieces of “look how beautiful”-stones and they actually felt very good in the palm of my hand, like real rocks, with a proper weight and texture – no pebbles from the beach…
And while I studied the chalky pieces of rock, I had a relieving thought:
We are simply walking on the bottom of an old sea, one that has lost its water 65 milion years ago.
An association with the word “bottom” and especially “sea”: I started to feel more at ease. And while my backpack started weighing heavier and heavier because of all the amazing rocks we had collected a Korean saying came to my mind:
All creatures remember the sea, where every living creature was born.
And with a very light thread I pursued our walk over the flanks of the good old mountains.
That night I finally had a good night of sleep trusting the mountains would guard over us.
Still, when at the end of the week we descended towards lower grounds I did feel a sense of relief. Which made me think that, although I had never identified myself much with the Netherlands, there had been at at least one good reason for having been born in the low lands, in a city more or less at the same level as the sea surface.
(1) Margret Hofheinz-Döring [CC-BY-SA-3.0], url
(2-4) Beyond the Frontier [CC-BY-2.0]
(5) Hector Giacomelli [Public domain], url
(6-11) Beyond the Frontier [CC-BY-2.0]
(12) PBASH607 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], url
(13-17) Beyond the Frontier [CC-BY-2.0]
(18) Jan Hendrik Weissenbruch [Public domain], url