The last days of 2018 found me in the middle of high, cold mountains. Daily activities include falling, while attempting to snowboard.
Mountains in winter have at most two colors. The pine and cypress are of the darkest green, so dark that it is almost gray, nearly black. What compensates it are what’s underneath, in between, and on top of, the trees, the uncharted snow of the purest white.
On average, trees cover about half the area of each mountain. Some decided to proliferate around the lower waist of the mountain, where it is relatively warmer, creating a look that from afar resembles a heavily built man with a white hat and grass skirt wrapped around his hip. He might as well start dancing the second you look away.
While with some others, trees grow where it is closest to the sky. The way they blanket the mountain, forming a thin and smooth curve that follows exactly the mountain’s shape, give it a furry look that you feel like brushing your fingers through.
I like it especially when the cloud is low, sometimes lower than the top of the mountain, and that gives it another blanket. Double-blanketed mountains seem extremely content and safe that they look like a giant baby in sleep.
But to personify mountains is to depreciate them. It is natural for us to humanize objects so we feel more relatable. But our feelings aside, why should a handsome mountain be likened to an attractive person? A mountain itself is so much grander, calmer, and historically more cultured and important than any human could ever be.
To liken a mountain to a mountain is only fair, to liken it to anything else is botching it.
What a great honor, though, for a human to be ever compared to a mountain, how dignified, self-sufficient, soothing, reliable must that person be. But characters are demonstrated in relative terms. What’s my mountain may well be your swamp.
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The blotches of white in the mountains are where snow enthusiasts find heaven.
If you look closely, it is not just white. Skiers and snowboarders color themselves to the extreme, each brighter a color than another. They look like beads of sweat coming down from the mountain head. If you fail to keep your eye on each one of them, some easily disappear; could have evaporated into the air. Then more sweat is formed and flows down; the mountain appears to be in constant panic.
If you zoom in much much closer, so close that you become one of the bright beads, the scene changes so vastly that you forget about the furry, sweaty mountain head altogether. All of a sudden your world is about slopes, balance, and envious looks toward those dashing through.
The sport of snowboarding teaches me about coming face to face with your own fear. Turns out, the best way to overcome fear is to go forward with it. Don’t trust what your instincts tell you to be safe, trust instead what your fear tells you to avoid, and do exactly that.
My relationship with snowboarding, as dramatic as a 4-day relationship could be, has twists and turns. The first day I liked it but in a careful, composed way. The second day it made me fall so much and gave me lots of bruises that I went frustrated, admitted that I hated it. But even in the midst of hate, I knew that I could only hate because I deeply care. Then it slowly rebounds like most relationships rebound.
Many relationships have a similar pattern. A careful like, a careless fallout, and more careful recovery. Some give up at the fallout, some survive the fallout but give up at the long, uneventful recovery. Me? Oh I wouldn’t trust any experience if it doesn’t involve a certain number of falls.
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When I live out in the mountains I live in a bubble. I am everything I was not in San Francisco.
I am a happy follower. I do not decide what I do everyday, nor do I drive, or check the road condition or the weather, or know the exact route we are taking. (I fully trust my able and sweet cousin with the deciding power.) I am surrounded by family, and attentively and comfortably building bonds with them. I am perhaps nicer to be with than when I am by myself. You are a better person when you are trying.
Then I left the mountains, out of the vacation bubble, and am suddenly back to the free, but alone, city.
Fullness or loneliness is not about how many people you have around right now, but about how many of them you expect would stick around, determined to rough out the nastiness of weather—the sky’s temper, of your temper, of life’s temper. About how many will you continue to see right around the corner far in the future, so far that they forget what was the initial reason to be around you; being around becomes not the means to any purpose, but the purpose, the only doing that matters.
Still I had to say goodbye to my mountains and will strive against post-mountain syndrome.
And mountains, those were my thoughts being with you. But thinking is for silly human, you don’t have to care.
And mountains, today I leave behind my thoughts and leave you. But gathering and parting are for silly human, you don’t have to care at all.