I believe in the power of mountains, to teach strength and perseverance and give my life a needed perspective.
Outside my window in Tucson, Arizona, the Catalinas loom, great giants 9,000-miles high that hover over my day-to-day existence. Millions of years ago they pushed through the earth to be part of the Coronado National Forest. And now, they stand, ageless as love.
The seasons revolve, as the Catalinas turn green, brown, lavender and I begin to understand that love is the greatest mountain of all, coloring my world in immeasurable ways. Occasionally, snow wipes the tips clean, even in the Sonora Desert, reminding me to whiten the slates of those I’ve offended or who have offended me.
When times are tough, I look to the Catalinas, seeking consolation. When my children have problems, I gaze endlessly into their shadows. When my 88-year-old mother had a stroke, I told the mountains. When my husband developed cancer, I found solace in the image of a cool place above the heat of the desert, offering a stability that eased my worry. One thing I’ve determined, it would take a lot of tears to wear down a mountain.
I believe that the Catalinas hold their own deep colored magic, just as life does. Once, in California, my husband and I lit, like dragonflies, in Ojai, a town that celebrates something called “The Pink Moment.” People stop and watch the sun’s dying shafts light up the mountains, a quick, intense shading that happens when a high range faces west. I was told this custom came from Himalayan inhabitants, who’d found their way to Ojai. Reason enough for my husband and I to celebrate our own Shangri La sunset in Arizona. For only a few seconds, we connect to others in distant places, who watch as swatches of pink and rose wash the sides of eternal rock faces. And we honor this brief blessing, knowing it will fade in just a few breaths.
Every day I try to remember to store up the beauty and strength that comes down to me from the mountains. One never knows about tomorrow. I seek to understand and appreciate the pink moments that shade my life from morning to night.
Georgia O’Keeffe had a thought. She said, “It’s my mountain. God told me if I painted it often enough, I could have it.” And so I borrow her idea and lose myself in the Catalina peaks that today, poke through the bottom of the clouds. Huge, dark shapes rise up and over tendrils of mist that wind through the vales, like mountain music. It is my intention to own the Catalinas.
If I look long enough and hard enough, they will be engraved behind my eyelids and I will hold their wisdom within me forever. Georgia O’Keeffe had her mountain. Never mind. I have my own.