Come down from the mountain,
You have been gone too long ...
— Fleet Foxes, 'Ragged Wood', 2008

The Mountain

... The Mountain has always existed.

When your people first arrived in this land, The Mountain was there.

As your village grew, The Mountain was there.

As your mother labored to bring you into the world, The Mountain was there.

The Mountain has always been close — so close that for many years you could not see it.

It is your parents who first point out The Mountain to you. They tell you that it watches over your people, and that your people always respect The Mountain. They tell you that The Mountain will watch over you too, and that you do not need to fear The Mountain. You feel comforted by this, and you grow up happy that The Mountain is watching over you, your people, and your village.

As you get older you begin to spend more time outside your home and among the other people of the village. Now you meet people who talk about The Mountain in a different way:

When good things happen they say, "We have The Mountain to thank!".

When bad things happened the same people say, "We have disappointed The Mountain!"

These people give you stern warnings about what you should and should not do to keep The Mountain from getting angry at you. You feel uncomfortable about this.

Then you notice that most of the older children and adults nod in agreement when people talk about angering The Mountain, but they don't seem to actually worry about it. You expect something bad to happen to them because of this, but you notice that there does not seem to be a connection between those who follow the rules and good things happening, and those who do not follow the rules and bad things happening. Both happen to everyone, and The Mountain seems to have nothing to do with it.

You decide to stop worrying about The Mountain.

One day when you are a little older, you look up from your childhood games and there is The Mountain. You feel as if The Mountain is staring at you. You remember how you used to be afraid of The Mountain seeing you and being mad at you — but you do not feel anger or fear. You feel strangely calm before The Mountain. You feel curious about The Mountain, but do not know why. You stare back. You feel that it is trying to speak to you. You cannot actually hear what The Mountain is saying, but you feel it. Like it wants something from you, and wants to give you something in return, but you don't know what.

From that day forward, The Mountain is visible to you in a new way. You see it everywhere and you watch it as it watches you. It begins to appear even in your dreams. There is something mutely beckoning to you from The Mountain. It seems to want you to draw nearer and listen more intently, so you try.

In your heart you commit yourself to The Mountain, and you begin to look forward to the day when you will go to it and hear it clearly. There is something there that you feel you need to understand.

You grow older and stronger in the shadow of The Mountain. In your schooling you always hold a place in your mind and heart for The Mountain. It is as if there is something that The Mountain called on you to do, but you do not know what.

As you grow up, you prepare yourself for the journey. You listen eagerly whenever anyone has something to say about The Mountain and you ask many questions. Sometimes you hear suggestions on how to proceed, but more often you are admonished that you give up on such folly. Occasionally, you meet someone who seems to neither encourage or discourage, but instead, asks you questions that do not make sense. They want to know about your desire and it's source. They want to know what you are looking for and why you think it is to be found there. You sense that they know more than they are saying, but you do not know what it is. You keep asking questions.

One day you begin to climb. As you climb you feel smaller and smaller as all that you know drops away behind you and the goal looms ahead. It is a hard climb. You think about quitting, but once you start there is nothing to do but keep climbing, and so you keep on. The journey takes several days and you have to work harder than you ever thought you would.

Using all your strength, you finally reach the top.

The top of The Mountain is bare and empty. After years of thinking and dreaming, months of planning, and days of climbing, you stand on top of The Mountain that has so dominated your mind and heart. Looking out from The Mountain, all you see are more Mountains, the valleys with their clinging villages and faint, inter-connecting roads. All of it disappearing into the endless blue of the sea merging into the endless blue of the sky. You look upward to the sky for a way to climb further, but there is none. You are at the highest point to which you can climb, and there are no more steps upward. You have come to the end of the road, and so you stand still, shivering in the cold of the summit and listening intently for a voice that never comes.

You feel nothing change while you stand at the summit; the wind blows, you shiver in the cold, your tired legs ache, your ears strain, your voice calls out, but nothing changes. Nothing happens. There is no flash of illumination. You know nothing now that you did not know before. You feel a deep disappointment inside, and the only sensation you feel is your letting go of the wish to climb The Mountain and that is all. You are disillusioned, bone tired, and have no idea what comes next

You are empty.

With nothing more to do on top of The Mountain you choose turn around and begin to descend.

After several days of walking you approach your village in a weak and weary state. When you come staggering along the road people come out to meet you. They had seen you leave and now want to know what you saw on The Mountain. Some of the people are curious about you, some are scared, and some are indifferent. They ask you to tell them your story. You open your mouth to speak, but no words come out. The thoughts of The Mountain are large like The Mountain itself is large. Your mouth, though, is the same size as before. So you speak of emotions. You speak in analogy. You try to explain how hard you have searched and how you did not find anything. Your words do not make sense and the people think you have gone crazy. You begin to wonder if you are crazy and if you can live in the village again.

You stagger through the town, trying to find a place that is welcoming, but everyone seems to avoid you or mock you. In the town square you slump to the ground with hunger, fatigue and despair. You don't think you belong here, but you don't know where to go or what to do.

You feel completely lost.

Then someone approaches you who says, "Do not explain anything".

They help you up and walk with you to their home. There they give you a plate of food and a bed for the night. In the morning they give you work to do. You try to ask them what they know about The Mountain, but they won't speak of it. They just focus you on food, sleep and work. The next day is the same. And the next.

While you are working, you think about what has happened. You had thought that nothing had changed when you were on The Mountain, but now that you are back in the village you feel as if something is different, but you cannot put into words what it is. You are also aware that it feels like a part of you is no longer with you. It remains on The Mountain. It does not watch you, but it continues to look outward into the distance. Somewhere deep within you, the connection to that piece remains, and you feel that high place, that empty space, that vision into the distance. It appears when you close your eyes at night. It appears in your dreams. It is as if you are still looking out into the distance, even when you are looking down at the dirt and mud beneath your feet.

You are not the person that you were. You have no idea of what you are to do next, so you keep working. The change that came from climbing The Mountain makes the world look different, but it does not change your basic needs for food, clothing, shelter, and company. You find a place to live. You choose work to do. You become a part of the village and the people forget about your trip to The Mountain, but you don't forget — the part of you on top of The Mountain remains.

You work all day and then you sleep. You sleep all night and then you wake. You do this day after day, and you begin to get used to this new life. You return to the mundane business of living.

Eventually, you have your own place of work, near the town square. Occasionally you look up from your work to see someone coming into town that looks like they have come from The Mountain. You do not approach them at first, but watch them as you work. You see them try to explain what they've seen to anyone who will listen, but they stammer, as if unfamiliar with themselves and the process of making words. People jeer and make fun of them. When the crowd leaves and the traveler slumps down in frustration and weariness you go out to them. You help them move along or get situated where they are. You don't tell them what you know, but you tell them what they need to do. They have questions, but you don't answer. You don't know what to tell them — you don't have any answers either, but you know what they must do to survive. They are grateful and they relax and start to get back to living in the valley.

You keep living.

One day a stranger approaches you. The stranger says that he has heard that you have climbed The Mountain and he says that he has climbed too. He tells you that there are a group of people like you and that you must meet them. This group is in possession of deeper knowledge about The Mountain that they have decided that you are worthy to share in this knowledge. Eager to be with others who share your experience, you go with him. You hope that you will finally have the understanding that you have sought for so long.

At the appointed time you meet with a group of people in a secluded place where you can talk freely. There is much discussing and arguing. People talk passionately about what they think The Mountain is, where they think its power comes from. They argue about what must be done with what they've learned. Some believe that the group must tell everyone about The Mountain and bring others to it. Some insist the group should tell no one and keep others away from it. Some talk about worshipping The Mountain and the rules that must be followed. Some can only talk about their particular experience on The Mountain. Though they are talking about the same Mountain everyone seems to have their own idea of what The Mountain means.

They want to know what you think. They want you to commit to their group. You feel uncertain.

The group continues it's discussion and you hear many things, but the one thing you do not hear is The Mountain. Wanting to clear your head, you go outside and see the outline of The Mountain in the moonlight. Outside the room The Mountain is clear to see and clear to hear. You don't rejoin the group arguing about what The Mountain is. You stay outside and keep listening to The Mountain. There is no demand to allegiance or to changing others minds — you must only listen.

You stop looking for others to tell you what The Mountain is saying and you keep listening for yourself.

The years go by and you meet a partner. You commit to each other, move into a home together, and start to build a family. Your hard work has earned you a position in the community. You have people you love and who love you. You are content in almost every way that you can think of. You live your life, care for your people, and keep an eye out for those coming down from The Mountain. You wonder if there is more that The Mountain is asking you to do, but you don't know what it could be. You keep listening. You keep living. You keep doing your best.

One day, later in your life, you look toward The Mountain for some kind of message or inspiration and you realize that something has happened — The Mountain has gone completely mute. You are not sure when or how this has happened, but something that sustained you has now deserted you, and you are very sad. You look to The Mountain for several days and earnestly plead for something, but there is only silence. You try speaking to The Mountain in every way that you can think of. You apologize for everything that you might have done wrong. You go over your life carefully for any place that you might have broke your commitment to The Mountain, but you cannot find anything to explain The Mountain's silence

After many days of frustration, you give up. With no response from The Mountain, you turn away in despair and accept that you are alone. But in so doing you feel as The Mountain looking at you once more — not from the distant rock above the village, but from someplace within you. You don't understand and think you are imagining things, but over the next few days you keep looking alternately at The Mountain and then within yourself and one is empty and the other is full. You don't know how this has happened, but somehow The Mountain now seems to be inside you.

Gradually you realize that what was talking to you was not The Mountain to begin with — it was something within you. Now you are seeing more clearly and you have realized from where the voice had come all along. You are overjoyed to have The Mountain with you once more.

You grow still older and the voice of The Mountain within you becomes clearer, even as The Mountain above the town moves in and out of darkness, shadow and mist. You feel confident that you are in tune with a rhythm and you stay quiet so that you can always hear it in the background of your mind. The Mountain is with you always now.

You start to become known within the village for your wisdom and your knowledge of The Mountain. Sometimes young people seek you out to ask you about The Mountain. They remind you of yourself at a younger time, so eager and insistent. You tell them as much as you think they can handle. For some you speak at length. For some you ask hard questions. For some you offer encouragement. For some you just smile and say nothing. The voice of The Mountain within you that tells you how much to say to each, and you follow it.

Several more years go by. The voice of The Mountain that comes from within is your constant companion, and you are careful to always keep your ears sharp and listen for its voice. But, despite your commitment to be vigilant, one day you strain to hear The Mountain, but once again it is gone. You are calmer this time, and you look and listen carefully within. You find that you still feel The Mountain, but the voice is no longer there. You strain to hear something, but there is only silence. You are confused at what you are doing that has led to the loss of the most valuable thing in your life and you grieve to think that this voice that has guided you through your whole life might be gone forever. As you try to image what the voice within would say about this latest loss you find that you already know what is happening. From somewhere within it comes to you that the voice is no longer there because it is no longer necessary — the Mountain is now a part of you. Not hovering near you. Not speaking from somewhere within you. It is just ... part of you ... and you are part of it ... and you cannot explain what has happened, but you know that it has taken place. You have never felt so deeply peaceful and happy.

You no longer ponder what The Mountain wants you to do because you know. And each day you do the things that you want to do. The both of you. The One of you. You continue living your life, and you are at peace.

You continue to live and work, but somehow the 'work' has ceased to be work. You feel that you are doing what you want to and you know what to do now. When it is done, you know what to do next. There is no pushing from something more. There is no missing piece. You feel complete.

One day, many years after you were born, you are sick and cannot get out of bed. Your family gathers around you. On that day you lie in your bed look through the window and there is The Mountain. As you gaze at The Mountain you feel the world around you. You feel your body lying on a bed in your home. You feel the valley in which the village sits. You feel the streams that run through the valleys and the hills that rise above it. You feel The Mountain. You feel the other mountains around it. You feel the many villages, clinging to their flanks. You feel the people in each village. You feel those hills slope down to the sea, and you feel the endlessness of the ocean that stretches off to the horizon. You feel the great arc of the sky stretched out above your whole world and circling back to the opposite horizon before it curls back up the valley behind you in a great circle. You feel it all. It is a part of you. You are a part of it. It is as if there is no separation any more — the land, sky, sea, and people all flow through you.

You feel that part of yourself that you left on top of The Mountain all those years ago. That part is with you too. And you are with it. In the village. On top of The Mountain. On the sea. In the air.


With your eyes fixed on The Mountain, the life that is within you moves on.

Your body is carried from your home by your family and close friends. A crowd gathers to say goodbye as a noted person of the village is laid to rest within a small hill in the shadow of The Mountain. The people around your grave talk about you and tell stories of your life, and many of them refer to your love of The Mountain.

Some look toward The Mountain with curiosity.

Some look toward The Mountain with reverence.

Some look toward The Mountain with conviction.

Some look toward The Mountain with fear.

Some appear focused on something within themselves.

Some see nothing but a lifeless body and a lifeless rock.

You are no longer there, but The Mountain remains.

The Mountain has always existed ...