Meditation on a Mountain

It might strike some as curious on a site that takes its name from a wizard who takes his title from the particular mountain, Monadnock, that we have never really discussed the mountain itself outside of the moniker. This is an unintentional omission on my part. I often find that I fail to differentiate between those subjects I have covered with myself and in my own mind and those subjects I’ve actually gone on to share.

It is indeed important to pause with regularity in consideration and recognition of this force that exists with such omnipresence and permeates such wide swaths of reality. If you, like this wizard, live either in the actual Monadnock region or in one of its associated valleys (such as the Ashuelot River Valley), you essentially exist directly in the mountain’s shadow and sphere at all moments. If you, like many, are a reader from afar, you’re experiencing the existence of this lonely mount merely by stopping by to see what its wizard might have to say.

Perhaps the most important and obvious piece of information I should have made clear much earlier is that Mount Monadnock–or any mountain, really–is not just a jutting, if majestic, pile of earth upon the landscape. The great Ralph Waldo Emerson, consistent with his typical insight, correctly recognized her significance:

To far eyes, an aërial isle,
Unploughed, which finer spirits pile,
Which morn and crimson evening paint
For bard, for lover, and for saint;
The country’s core,
Inspirer, prophet evermore,
Pillar which God aloft had set
So that men might it not forget,
It should be their life’s ornament,
And mix itself with each event;
Their calendar and dial,
Barometer, and chemic phial,
Garden of berries, perch of birds,
Pasture of pool-haunting herds,
Graced by each change of sum untold,
Earth-baking heat, stone-cleaving cold.”

He goes on to correctly identify the nature (if not the gender) of her being, her “personality”—to put it in simple terms that we can easily wrap around. Speaking in the first person, she says:

“’ Here amid clouds to stand,
And would’st be my companion,
Where I gaze
And shall gaze
When forests fall, and man is gone,
Over tribes and over times
As the burning Lyre
Nearing me,
With its stars of northern fire,
In many a thousand years.

O pilgrim, wandering not amiss!
Already my rocks lie light,
And soon my cone will spin.
For the world was built in order,
And the atoms march in tune,
Rhyme the pipe, and time the warder,
Cannot forget the sun, the moon.
Orb and atom forth they prance,
When they hear from far the rune,
None so backward in the troop,
When the music and the dance
Reach his place and circumstance,
But knows the sun-creating sound,
And, though a pyramid, will bound.’”

In opposition to Emerson’s words are the many who would, frankly, dismiss all or most of them as the whimsical nonsense of a nineteenth-century philosopher-poet. If they’re being charitable, they’ll grant you that the words themselves are pretty. Tragically, the focus on the literal content of the language in question is to miss the point altogether. No one—neither Ralph nor myself—is claiming that this mountain is going to be found audibly speaking to hikers about history and physics or that some bearded man named “God” put the mountain there as if for an afternoon diversion one day. It is not necessary that one believe in the literal letter of these illustrative irrationalities in order that one may accept that energies flow through all things, that mammals and lizards and chickens have energies, that trees and fields of grass have energies, even that rocks have energies and, yes, that mountains have energies, too. Unique energies, just as with nearly everything else, with unique characteristics suited for their specific “purpose” or “role.”

It is because of these energies that the world we inhabit is imbibed with all manner of wonder, and to deny this wonder is to ignore a wide and significant component of the subjective human experience.

It is mostly for the sake of irritating these detractors that I referred earlier to my beloved mountain as a female. This is not to say I do not believe that her presence primarily feminine, for I do, but it is to say that it is not of major importance either way. All mountains, like all things, contain some aspects of the masculine and the feminine, just as they do the light and the dark. How a particular mountain is made manifest to you in particular can never be measured as true or false. It has been told to me, however, by individuals initiated into the wisdom of Peruvian shamans, that Monadnock (known to them as apu monadnock to denote their view of the mountain as a being and not a thing) is known in the old traditions still passed down to some today as having an unusually strong feminine presence.

Even without consulting any spiritual colleagues, it is impossible for this wizard to deny her femininity in the face of my own experience. She does not impose or protrude so much as she embraces. She does not dictate creation so much as nurture and deliver its offspring. Her wiles and her lessons are mysterious, as with all manifestations of the sacred feminine; they are manifold and they are available to all. Whether you’re a wizard or not, they’re right out there in front of you (or perhaps above you, whichever the case may be), waiting for you to claim them as your own.

This same thread is woven all throughout our lives, whether we like it or not. Whether we speak to the local mountain willingly or not, she communicates her presence to us. So it is with all things. All that we encounter interacts with us, their myriad presences interacting with and always influencing our own. The shift in mindset required to recognize the existence and nature of the hidden wonder with which we’re having a mystical interplay at all times is immense and cannot be achieved overnight (or even within the month, or in 2013 as a half-cocked New Year’s resolution), but it is the shift that allows us the most bountiful increase in the wealth of both our individual experience and the collective one.

We’re all in this together.

Say that to yourself and think about it.

“We’re all in this together.”

Now, broaden your definition of “all”.

Keep broadening it. Every day. Do it until you can’t broaden it any further, and then the next day broaden it some more.

The mountain, the apu, is worth talking about precisely because we’re all in this together. Remember this the next time you gaze up at its craggy, barren peak—or the next time you gaze up at whatever it is looming above you.

Go in peace. Happy Monday. Blessed be. Salaam.

* *   *

In accordance with my statements above, along with the obvious reasons of my very title, will periodically revisit the nature and the wonder specifically related to Monadnock on a regular basis going forward.

The full text of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s 1846 poem, “Monadnoc”, can be found here.

2 thoughts on “Meditation on a Mountain

  1. I like this one a lot! I especially appreciate your explanation of Emerson’s language because too many dismiss his meditations on nature as too whimsical and lacking a philosophical current, which I personally disagree with entirely! Great work.

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