broadsideblog

Moved By Mountains

In nature, photography, travel on March 2, 2011 at 4:00 am
Mt. Rundle, Alberta Canada

Mt. Rundle, one of my new favorite places in the world! Banff, Alberta. It's 330 million years old...Image by s.yume via Flickr

I’ve always thought of myself as a city girl. I love to dress up, eat out, look at art, attend theater.

But having just spent a week in the Rocky Mountains I came away so bereft at the thought of leaving them behind it was hard not to weep today when the Air Canada 767 finally took off from Calgary, taking me back to Vancouver for another week.

How can mountains, ones I didn’t even ski on or climb but merely admired from a distance, so move me?

Every morning, I opened my hotel room’s pale yellow striped curtains and stared straight up a steep, wooded mountain. If I peered off to the right, far in the distance, snow-covered peaks glowed rose in the dawn, disappeared into wreaths of snow or cloud, gleamed blue at dusk.

Having never lived near mountains, I had no idea how they change with every cloud and shaft of light, shifting shape and character hourly. Like an ever-changing baby’s face, I could watch them, mesmerized, for hours.

I had never felt such an intimacy with a landscape, enveloped by the crags surrounding me. I was up this morning at 6:30 to catch my bus, and ran about — my nostrils freezing shut, eyes weeping with cold, bare hands cramping, snatching earrings out of my pierced ears (they conduct cold!)  — snapping last-minute photos. As the bus raced east, I shifted from one side to the other taking more images through its windows, oblivious to what a gawping tourist I was being.

Mt. Rundle, one of the peaks I stared at every day in awe, is 330 million years old.

As we entered the endless suburban tracts outside Calgary, a local woman — heading off for a week’s warmth in Mexico — pointed out a “sundog” — a huge rainbow encircling the sun, thanks to light refracted through ice crystals in the air.

It sounds odd to say I’ll desperately miss a pile ‘o rocks, but I will.

What landscape has so touched you?

  1. I feel that way about the ocean. I love standing on the shore and just watching it rock back and forth. Can you tell I grew up on the prairie?

  2. Hi there. You evoked the beautiful mountain scenery and the awe in which you hold it very well. My dearest landscape memory is much like yours: the snow covered peaks in Innsbruck, Austria. They are not huge but compared to the low level mountain ridges surrounding the city in which I live [Adelaide] they are enormous

    • Thanks!

      I miss those mountains already — even though I can see a smaller, snow-capped version out my window now in Vancouver. What I once considered “mountains” has now been scaled back to….something less inspiring, albeit still beautiful.

  3. Ah, bsb, I come from Cape Town, a city that nestles beneath the outstandingly beautiful Table Mountain. It is the most amazing thing to wake up every day and consider the city’s formidable and fabulous protector, and to see its beauty through every season and colour of sky. So I know exactly what you mean.
    I’m so glad you’ve had this wonderful restorative time of blessing and enrichment and being soaked in the awesomeness of nature.
    Hugs to you from London
    Sunshine xx

  4. I love mountains pretty much anywhere, but last summer our family went to Lassen Volcanic National Park in northern California. I thought of it when you referred to the “pile o’ rocks” – we hiked to the top of a cinder cone volcano – very literally a closely-packed pile of very small rocks. It was tough going, but the view from the top was amazing, 360 degrees around us. I was happy just to stand up there and keep turning around and around to see what I could see.

  5. Almost twenty years ago I caught the Indian-Pacific train across Australia – a three-day trip. Having spent all my life living in this country, I was gob-smacked by the landscape of the centre, at least the bit of the centre I travelled through. So red, so barren, so god-damn moon-like. I spent a whole day staring out the train window seeing absolutely nothing. It was extraordinary. It gut me in the gut when 18 months later I did it again, this time to come home. And it gets me now, as I write this. To think you can know your country and then you see something that had always been so hidden…

  6. So true!

    As I keep telling my Canadian friends how I just finally saw — and loved — the Rockies, no one could believe I had not seen them before. I did drive across the country (from Toronto to BC) when I was 15 with my Dad, but we turned south into the Dakotas and Montana so I had never spent time in that part of Canada. I am so glad, however belatedly, to now have done so.

  7. These days I find myself more surely drawn to landscapes than to people but will landscapes save my letters?
    jfitz

  8. They might!

    I will soooo miss the Western Canadian landscape — as I type this, I see both snow-capped mountains and the ocean from my Vancouver hotel window.

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