• Michael Remke

For the Love of Mountains


The lowest altoscumulus clouds glowed a majestic pink against a backdrop of darker, higher stratus clouds. It was the first sign of approaching warmth from a distant sun, the peaks took on a shine of their own, independent of the coming sunshine. Had you looked into my eyes at that moment, you would have seen many things. The glow of the pink clouds. The shine of the peaks. With attention to detail you would have gotten a glimpse into my own shinning self, the color that emulates from within me. It is confusing though. For I am madly in love with the mountains, so to gaze into my eyes at any moment, you see me and the reflection of my love guzzling outward like a fountain. It is this love of mountains to which I wish to speak today.

This love is so strong and admirable that we as a society admire men and women who grow found of the mountains to the point in which a romance develops. To admire the mountains from a far is easy. Anyone could bat their eyes at one of Ansel Adam’s photographs while resting beside a fire. Likewise, after a brief gaze at the photo, some are willing to read words of the famous John Muir in awe of his observations. Few, however, are willing to trek through snow, rain, sleet and hail away from home to make a photograph or connect observations into a string of words. Few are willing to ask permission to cut a tree and split it into reasonable pieces to which they could burn in order to stay warm. Modern luxuries make it more confusing. Many who confess a love for the mountains do so out of an enjoyment for skiing, hiking or camping. Gear makes it all the easier to feel the comforts of a warm home while wandering amongst the majestic giants, thus brining many more to peaks company. So many of the visitors exclaim that they love the mountains, but the same many are only doing the peaks injustice and diminishing the value of the word love.

I do not mean to call these people selfish nor point out that they are committing a wrong doing. Indeed, above all I love myself, failure to make this acknowledgment would make it impossible to love mountains. What I do mean, however, is that these individuals are much like the people whom I earlier refereed to that admire Ansel Adam’s photo from a safe haven beneath their waterproof shell. Again, I do not mean to attack their choice to remain dry by purchasing appropriate appropriate gear, but instead mean to highlight the misuse of a word associated with a complex emotional relationship as a word to express simple enjoyment. Ansel Adam’s, for example, was forced into intimacy when he ventured to the womb of the mountains. A surprise blizzard would leave him soaked, frozen, and at the mercy of the very peaks themselves. This brings a sense of intimacy, and emotional lure that put Ansel Adam’s livelihood at risk, if he truly loved himself, he must also have loved the mountains and beg for protection. If the peaks remained unreceptive to his love, he would learn of this quickly through his suffering. For many mountain visitors today, gear provides an alternative means of survival that is independent of love. They may use the word love, but they do so without accepting the emotional connectedness that love really is.

Love is the language of the world. The balance of ecosystems is preserved through love. A wolf chooses not to over hunt out of love, furthermore plants and their fungal symbionts share resources through complicated economic models that are governed by love in order to ensure balance. Love maintains homeostasis. There are, of course, alternative mechanisms of survival. Instead of trusting the mountains with love, once could trust their gear with selfish reassurance. This is the flaw of the hikers I spoke of earlier. They say they love the mountains without actually trusting the mountains with their love. This makes all the difference. Love is emotional trust. To love something is to see your ability to exist as your pure self in its presence, and you must trust in this truth.

In a world governed by love, the mistake the hikers made of failing to trust the mountains with their love, is the same mistake human societies are making world wide on a variety of topics and issues. We speak of our love for a human while isolating our feelings to only a human and failing to recognize the components of the world that allow us to love them, that allow us to see them. We fail to recognize that in order to give the love of our life a dozen roses, we must love an entire system. Without a rose bush to produce such beautiful flowers, our symbol for love would not even exist. Without soil microbes to help the plant gather water and nutrients, our symbol would not exist. Without a myriad of complicated relationships dependent on local, regional, and global ecosystem processes, our symbol would not exist. So when I say I love you to the most beautiful girl in the world, I am really saying I love you to an entire ecosystem.

This is a dilemma in society; in environmental movements, in development and the lack there of. We often act with selfish interests that blind us to the idea that in order to love ourselves, we must also love the systems that sustain us. For John Muir to stay alive in the mountains, he must have loved the mountains dearly and I have no doubt that he, as a result, developed a much deeper and profound love for himself. The beauty is that in speaking for the trees, a conservationist who truly loves the trees, is also speaking for the greater good of human society. The humans and non-human beings are married by love, we just need to disintegrate our perceptions that humans are the only creatures that love. Much like any relationship bound by love, by loving the trees, the trees more often than not reciprocate their love. This is to say that by loving the trees we are able to better love ourself, and the trees in turn also love us. We reap benefits from such a loving relationship, no one would hold a point of contention if my subjects in this conversation were two human lovers. All I have done is expanded the idea of love beyond humans to include trees and mountains.

For the love of mountains is a love of oneself, a love of humans, and above all a love of Earth. As I stand in admiration of the magical color dancing across the face of the mountains, I stand in love with myself. I hold an eye for the love I have for the mountains, and the love the mountains have for me. I can look at their face and see the love I have for the tectonics that brought them here, the Earth that housed them, the rain that weathered them, the rivers that carved them. My love for this planet is full circle. For the love of the mountains is a love of myself, a love of society, and a love for Earth. I do not mean to suggest that all the world trouble will go away in a perspective of love, but merely hope to show that contentious issues are dramatized by a lack of love. Lovers too have quells, but they also work them out – it is haters that brawl with no goal n mind, no solution to bring about peace, only disregard for the existence of oneself through the hatred of another. For the Love of Mountains cannot be achieved without emotional ties that dwell in the heart- the love of mountains is not superficial.


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