As is only fitting for 2013’s Day of Longest Light, and in keeping with my general tendencies toward wildness and not thinking things through, on the evening of June 21, I set out to climb my beloved mountain. This is a chronicle of that fateful and life-changing trek into the heights of divine communion and down again into the darkness – as, indeed, we are all about to do via the procession of the remainder of this calendar year.
Fortunately, I was not alone, just as I am not alone on my walk through life. This evening, I was accompanied by my lovely queen, my favorite sister, and my favorite comrade of 20 years. Habibti and I, despite the obvious (to us) sacred nature of the holiday, had to work all day, so we set out from the office just after 5 to meet our companions at the base of the mountain.
We took our first steps on that trail at about ten minutes to six. “But that’s too late in the day to start climbing Monadnock,” you may find yourself wanting to protest. Well, you may be right about that.
The trees of the new old forest do not waste time mourning the declining light of their old father the sun. No, the trees of the new old forest bask in it, they soak it in, they bend their limbs towards it, tilt their leaves to best capture its most and best and even its last. The trees, in this not-so-final estimation, hum its praises as we pause in almost-recognition before continuing along our merry magic way.
As we embark upon the heart of the beginning stage of this archetypal trip, what I lack in breath and physical condition I am able to compensate for with joy. This right here, my friends, is joyous. Every last bit of it dripping with its glow, even in black and white.
For just as some wizened ones have termed it a Box of Rain, what else could the great green up-thrust of the pinnacle of year’s life be but a basket of glowing curious joy – joy curious not because we are beset with it from all around but because it springs up and out from inside of us, rushing forward like magnetic water to join the matching scene outside and fly with the robins and the crows of this forest?
The farm is lost.
Before us here, that farm’s walled border
Melds seamlessly with regular special path-rocks.
The forest taketh away –
But she leaveth us reminders.
The rocks themselves, that stone we falsely believe “inanimate,” the stone we falsely believe to be stationary, they too flow, flow in and out of the green apparent flora, just as they flow seamlessly between the worlds of our experience and those at the edge of our perception. Are these then the rocks of America or those of Arnor?
My joy, it yet overfloweth as that light above and around still blazeth down – but as the body prepares begrudgingly to shut down from overexertion, our maternal Lost Farm Trail ends our wooded gestation and births us into a nativity of cliff and open air. Humble, naked, small, we are presented before the light, before that which is behind the light, that divine current into which we yearn to plug ourselves far more often than we are able and yet still not as often as we should.
The trail yields to the next. ‘Twas but a mile and a fraction, but a lifetime to my lungs and muscles and certain sides of my spirit – marking most definitively the conclusion of our preliminary climb.
It is now, rising ever higher, that our ordinary flora come to yield to the underlying bed of rock – and if we could only see that this is the rock that’s always with us, granite and limestone, crystalline quartz, not dead and not standing still but alive and well and moving.
What wondrous a rock is this
Certified organic spaceship hurtling through the skies.
Through the wild and whisping and whispering air before me,
Two tiny humps to be seen on the far part of the space rock’s sphere curve,
Two little bookends with a crazy little land in between.
It’s Old Man Watatic on the left, with all his Rosicrucian mystery,
The other Old Man is Wachusett, Wachusett of tradition and continuity
And prosperity under the sun.
Two little bookends with a crazy little land in between,
A land of cities and towns,
The land of commerce and concern and commuting and committees,
But you can’t see anything but trees from up here.
Just trees on a rock in space, trees between two Old Men bookends –
But that’s the crazy little land of my own genesis,
A nothing patch of green covering all the imperfections of man beneath,
Yet the nothing patch that holds the greatest fondness of my heart.
It’s barely visible now, barely poking through between the hardy and rough-scrabble pines of these intermediate heights – the pinnacle, our goal, our achievable paradise. We’ve arrived at my favorite waystation, a stone outcrop unknown to all but a few, a place of meditation and smoking and smiles.
We, or perhaps just I, just Mad I, christen this place the Wizard’s Nest. The Wizard of Monadnock should have an on-location headquarters with office hours a handful of times through the year – and why shouldn’t every wizard have a nest, anyhow?
That is the question I am asked, as we begin to climb onward. We know by now that there is little time for extraneous pauses.
And as we march onward, the moon, faintly visible above, has begun its rise in the east even as our beloved solstice sun – earlier standing still at the pinnacle of the sky – now accelerates its descent towards the ultimate setting. The territory is being ceded by the power of day to the powers of the night. We feel no fear for this, nor do we feel regret. Even if it may prove true that we’ve allowed ourselves to remain on this mountain far too late for safety’s sake, we feel only peace amidst surging energy and gratitude and common cause.
I attempt to explain – explain the celebration of light’s fullest manifestation, the honor of the ancestors, the cosmic pause to check reality and understand not merely our relationship with nature, but our nature itself, the need to carry onward this light with which we’ve been lucky enough to get so far —
“So the message I’m hearing, here,” my questioner interjects, “is ‘bank light.’ Is that it? Bank the light?”
Yes, that’s it.
Yes – it’s better than I could have (or did) put it myself.
We must bank this light in order to keep it with us as we climb on ahead into inevitable darkness.
The summit still lies before us, the summit and her glorious presentation of Midsummer Sol’s final rays, and all of that and then the climb downward in the dark, without proper equipment, preparation, or flashlights.
What will befall us now? What joys and what terrors? What is to become of us as we take a mortally dangerous straying turn from the path as darkness rapidly falls and panic sets in?
Will we win? What do we get if we make it?
Until that time comes, may the most bountiful Midsummer blessings be upon you, and may you feel the joy of the sun and the forest and the mountain even should you be toiling in front of screens breathing conditioned air and illumined by horrific bulbs of death-light. The true light and the true joy can reach you even there and even now if you know how to tap into the true reality behind the thinnest of veils – and if you understand the meaning of the mountain.
Until tomorrow, salaam!