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 ancestors first came to this land, The Mountain was there.

As your village grew, The Mountain was there.

While your mother labored to give you birth, The Mountain was there.

The Mountain has always been a part of your world. Yet for many years you did not notice it.

One day you looked up from your childhood games and there was The Mountain. You felt as if The Mountain staring at you. You felt curious about The Mountain, but did not know why. You stared back. You felt that it was trying to speak to you. You could not actually hear what The Mountain was saying, but you could feel it. It felt like a whisper from just out of earshot where you could feel the intent, but not hear the words. You knew that it wanted something from you, and had something to give you, but you didn't know what.

From that day forward The Mountain was visible to you. You saw it everywhere and you watched it as is watched you. It began to appear even in your dreams. There was something mutely beckoning to you from The Mountain. It seemed to want you to draw nearer and listen more intently, so you tried.

In your heart you committed yourself to The Mountain, and you began to look forward to the day when you would go there and hear it clearly.

You grew older and stronger in the shadow of The Mountain. In your schooling and training for life you always held a place in your mind and heart for The Mountain. There was something with it that you must do, but you did not know what.

As you grew up you began to prepare yourself for the journey. You listened to any conversations about The Mountain. You sought out anyone who seemed to know something about The Mountain to ask them questions. Sometimes you heard suggestions on how to proceed as well as pleadings that you give up. Occasionally, you met someone who seem to neither encourage or discourage, but instead asked questions that did not make sense. They wanted to know about you desire and its source. They wanted to know what you were looking for and why you decided that it was to be found there. You sensed that they knew more than they would say, but you did not know what it was. You store away their advice.

One day, whether planned or not, your feet take you away from the village and you begin to climb. As you climb you feel smaller and smaller as all that you knew drops away behind you and the goal looms ahead. It is a hard climb. You think about quitting, but once you start climbing there is nothing to do but keep climbing, and so you keep on.

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 and 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. There are no more steps upward. You have climbed as high as one can climb on The Mountain, and so you stand still, listening intently for the voice that never comes.

Nothing speaks to you. You feel nothing change while you stand at the summit; the wind blows, you shiver in the cold, your tired legs ache, but nothing changes. You feel a pang of disappointment as inside the only sensation is gently 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.

At some point you realize that you have nothing more to do, save only to descend. With your body and mind exhausted from the effort it took to reach the top, you begin the long climb down into the valley.

When you come staggering along the road from The Mountain to the village, the people sense that something has happened to you. You are now 'of The Mountain', and some people are curious about you, some are scared, and some are indifferent.

People ask you, "What did you see up there?".

You open your mouth to speak, but stop before 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. Your words do not make sense and the people think you are crazy. You begin to wonder if you are crazy and if you can live in a village again.

You walk through the town, trying to find a place that is welcoming, but everyone seems to avoid you. In the town square you slump to the ground with hunger and fatigue. You don't think you belong here. It is only then that someone approaches you who says, "Do not explain anything". They help you up, give you a plate of food, a bed for the night and in the morning they give you work to do. You wonder if they have been there too and understand what you are feeling. You ask them, but they won't speak of it. They just focus you on food, sleep and work.

You find a steady place to sleep and steady work to do. You return to the mundane business of living.

You felt that nothing had changed when you were on The Mountain, but now that you are back in the village you realize that you are not the same person that you were before — everything has changed at a deep and fundamental level, but you cannot put into words what it is. You can only live through the current day and then sleep. You do this day after day, and you begin to get used to this new life.

As you work you are aware that 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.

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, but the part of you on top of The Mountain remains.

Occasionally you look up from your work to see someone coming into town. You do not approach them at first, but wait just beyond the crowd. You watch 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 laugh, or scorn, or mock them. You follow at a distance. When they slump down in frustration and weariness you approach 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. 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. Eager to be with others who share your experience you go with him. You hope for answers. You hope for understanding.

At the appointed time you meet with a group of people in a secluded place where people can talk freely. There is much discussing and arguing. People argue 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. Though they seem to be 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. You go outside to 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 and together build a family. You 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.

One day, later in your life, you look toward The Mountain for some kind of message or inspiration and you realize that The Mountain has gone completely mute. The feel that the soul of it is not there and you don't know where it's gone. You are not sure when or how this has happened, but something that sustained you has now deserted you, and you despair. You look to The Mountain for several days and earnestly plead for something, but there is no more, only silence.

After many days of frustration, you give up. With no response from The Mountain you turn away in despair from the sight of its lifeless form and accept that you are alone. But in so doing you feel as if The Mountain was 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 the Spirit of The Mountain now lives within you.

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

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. While you still don't feel that you "know" what The Mountain knows, you feel 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.

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 just smile and say nothing. There is a sense within 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.

Despite your commitment to be vigilant, one day you strain to hear The Mountain, but once again it is gone. You are scared that, once more, you have lost The Mountain. Yet you still feel The Mountain. You know 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, happy, and complete.

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 complete 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 yourself and you are there. You feel the valley in which the village sits and you are there. You feel the streams that run through it and the hills that rise above it and you are there. You feel The Mountain. You feel the other mountains around it. You feel the 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 it all, and it is a part of you. You are a part of it. It is as if there is no separation any more and the land, sky, sea, and people 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. On top of The Mountain.

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 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.