All my life I’ve been in love with mountains. As the trees surrender and the snow falls, my heart races just a little more.

I first saw the rainbow-footed mountains in southern Germany when I was 27, and my life changed forever.

Here, the mountains have a different face and a dangerous smile. As I breathe the frigid air, the world stretches for countless miles, completely silent. Nothing but the lonely click of a strange bird and the distant rush of the wind, mimicking interstate traffic. There are no lush green fields bursting with swathes of Alpine flowers, not here.

The juniper trees shred their skin, twisting slowly, futilely towards the sky. Their heartwood burns with luscious sweet smoke, reminding me of the American desert and red hills filled with sand.

Mountains call forth all that the skies have to offer. They reach for the clouds and pull forth mighty storms and shrouds of gray anger. On a blue day they sit lazily twirling their fingers in the petticoats of mist. I could watch them forever: powerful, dark, and strong. Older than bones. Older than dirt.

Trace the Sky

Nothing in the world has ever been so unearthly.

In the highest reaches of the Eastern Sierras, the desert lies so close to the sky. The air is so pure, but the beauty and lightness make the world dance with every step. It’s oxygen deprivation, the say, but early people believed it was a mindset of the gods. Certainly the heart-stopping views lend validity to either or both of these notions.

Walking is a swish-swish of the feet, the sound replacing my breath that brings no release. It’s so quiet here. I’m on the moon, a moon with gnomish trees. As I climb, chips of alabaster marble skitter down the hills, caught by the bare bones of ancient wood.

You wonder what lives up here: Moths, small deer, occasionally birds. Jittery gray jackrabbits with continental ears. Up here, the plants are low and prickly, sweetly scenting the air with fresh pungency. Tiny bright flowers, pushing with all their might for potent miniature displays. With no one here to sniff them, there seems to be an olfactory overabundance. Such a contrast to the subtleties of life, sound, and air.

The shape of the land is hard: First the gentle swoop of a lunar white landscape encrusted with jagged rocks. Pockets of tired snow hide in the shadows, and the rolling hills belie their stunning height.

A purple haze paints a backdrop to the blue mountain wall. A silent, swollen moon. No sound but the light whirr of hidden birds and the soft rush of the wind. Perhaps when the light is gone the lunar desert will teem with life, but I can never believe that such a pristine environment could ever be characterized as “busy.”


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