Wednesday, August 26, 2009

inside the mountain's skin

Like any other name, there's a story behind this one. For a long time, I wanted to be someone else: someone strong and fearless, someone who didn't wake at night in the tent, heart pounding. Someone who could climb up talus slopes the consistency of Grape Nuts, someone who didn't need a map.

I thought that if I could crawl inside the mountain's skin that I could shed the soft layers like an onion, remake myself into something hard and polished as stone. I wouldn't mourn over the men who left me; I wouldn't obsess over a missed chance or something I should have said differently. Like the mountain, I would be indifferent to what others thought. No longer would I remember sixth grade, when I felt like an outcast in a strange world of mean girls. The voice inside that berated me for not being fast enough, tough enough, would fade into the silence forever.

Of course it didn't work that way. "People come here to get away but whatever it was they left behind follows them," someone told me deep in a starry night. It was true: all the parts of me I wanted to abandon never went away. As fast as I ran, I couldn't move fast enough. All the sketchy trailless peaks I climbed never made any difference. I grew my hair long, braided it in a thick rope down my back. I carried seventy pounds in a backpack and chopped trees out of the trails with a pulaski. I slept at lakes far from any road and traversed slopes where a misstep meant a plunge into oblivion.

I finally learned that you can't crawl inside the mountain's skin. I am made of water, not stone. "You are getting more beautiful every year," my friend David told me as we sat on a fence facing a line of mountains. He didn't see the wrinkles, souvenirs of years above treeline. He didn't reconsider when I got my saw in a bind cutting up firewood. I wanted to see myself the way he did, a woman worn down like a mountain but beautiful in her own way, rough around the edges but polished in the places that mattered. Every year I get a little closer; the woman who looks back at me in the mirror is a little less of a stranger.

It's good to be a little afraid, get a little lost, fail once in a while. You can love the mountains, but they don't love you back. A granite shoulder is a nice place to be, but sooner or later you have to come down. It's good to have someone waiting for you when you leave the trail; someone whose eyes will light up because they see it is you, complicated, flawed, beautiful you. It's good to let someone else inside your skin.


  1. Wonderful that you have that special someone waiting for you.
    From your blog, I learnt that you had fears,but to me you are incredibly brave, strong and caring.


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