Updated: Jul 17
Having not grown up close to big peaks, the mountains didn’t capture us until we were in our 20’s. We made a visit to family and hiked almost 14,000 feet. As we stood on the peak, dizzy minds from the headache induced altitude, something profound moved through us. A feeling of being dwarfed and insignificant, all the while, being in complete and utter disbelief at the magnitude of the open landscape that stretched before us. The mountains were infinite, the views were awe-inspiring and we were never the same. That warmth penetrated into our being and up there, we felt as if anything were possible. We were so taken by those mountains, that as we waved good-bye at the Denver airport, we broke into snot dripping, salty teared faces. We came unraveled in a way that surprised us both. We looked at each other, too scared to reveal that we couldn’t return to our relatively flat home, void of peaks and adventure and those moments that rendered us breathless.
Over the years, the Alps have become our second home. A home that is within close proximity that beckons when our city life grows too suffocating with noise and people. Throughout our time in Switzerland, those tremendous mountains have come to mean different things to us. At times, they have meant radical exploration into a country we now call home. Those once unfamiliar peaks, have permanently etched themselves into our beings.
The mountains mean peace and abandonment. Serenity in a loud world. During the rush and hustle of daily life in our urban home, the mountains provide a quiet hush. The only sound that we observe is rivers flowing, snow cascading down ledges becoming too wet and too heavy for that ledge to bear any longer. We know in their presence life moves at a simpler, slower, less hurried pace. A pace we long for; most days.
As parents, the mountains have meant the introduction of the natural world to our two children. Through that introduction, we have exposed them to the wondrous and the harsh, the living and the dying. Through nature they have witnessed the seasons in full bloom, they have met and said good-bye to creatures big and small and they have come to know the rising and setting sun. They have learned to push and retreat and to listen to those inner voices that whisper words of warning and talk of impulsivity. They are educated in a way that their daily schooling will never permit and they are learning to move gracefully through the challenging and relish in the easy.
Nature has been our refuge, our time alone from the daily realities of parenting. Whether together as a couple or alone as individuals, nature has offered us the necessary time to think. Nature has embraced us for who we are and who we were before we strapped children to our backs, nursed a baby on a trail or changed a diaper. Nature is oblivious to the struggles that leave us writhing in bed some nights. Nature accepts us as we come; never demanding anything other than respect in return.
Outdoors, we have met strangers on trails and hiked miles with unfamiliar faces. We spoke dodgy German, but were welcomed into huts and mountain houses for a warm meal, a clean bed and a place by the fire. Gathered around worn-out tables, playing games, we reflect on climbs that left us out of breath and full of life.
We hiked, and shared candid stories with friends that quickly turned into family. We embraced and cried and fell into the warmth of hugs under full moons with wild animals at our sides. We made promises to observe final wishes and we ultimately said that final farewell.
The mountains were there as we made vows to spread ashes in favorite meadows and up valleys that only those with air in their lungs and love in their hearts have the opportunity to witness. We wonder how it will feel to fulfill a promise too powerful and deep to even grasp?
The mountains; they are deep and profound. They are educators and heartbreakers. They are the colorful backdrops of memories. They are places of refuge and devotion; of curiosity and wonder. They are love and life and final resting places. Those mountains, they have come to mean everything that is important in this life.