The Winds of Monte Rosa

On the coming of the Equinox in chaotic times.

Everything of that day was autumn.

The sun beamed in friendly fashion down upon our rock stronghold. It was still quite warm and formidable, but something in its character revealed the beginnings of its terminal wane. The wind, blowing steadily throughout the day’s adventure, made fewer pretenses. This was now the autumn wind, appearing unannounced, as though a switch had been flipped. The trees yet retained most of their green, but not unlike a Just for Men Touch of Gray model, or perhaps the very lightly frosted tips of a cool guy in 2001, they were beginning to show their age. Their day had come and was now very nearly gone.

The landscape spread wide before us, some sort of dirty dark blue lagoon in the center of our scene, the sketchy valley stronghold of Keene manspreading confidently a bit over to the right. The landscape agreed: This is autumn.

This is the autumn of 2018! I bid you welcome – and all the land and sky does, too, if you’re open to receiving it.

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The four of us welcomed the new autumn with panache, taking a winding, magical journey – “just a couple bends around the way”, as it were – through the site of a phantom hotel, onward (at our own risk) into a feudal manor, up to a high spring very obviously home to fairies (both the daylight and nocturnal varieties, by our measure), onward to Monte Rosa, the spectacular stronghold described above. The day was perfect, not just because it suddenly seemed autumn, but because the climate and blessed lack of insects made for ideal conditions; after all, both hiking and magic are better enjoyed and endured under at least some minimal level of comfort. My companions were of the highest caliber to boot. Two veterans and one rookie – and one wizard, of course.

Some climb…

It was Monadnock we had chosen that day, an obvious fact and obvious choice that still bears stating. It was the third of four (official) Sacred Mountain Climbs I am to host this year, an event series that kicked off with an inaugural run last October (making this “Equinox Edition” the fourth overall). Doing this has basically been a lifelong dream of mine, and none other than our friend Leia Friedman, the Psychedologist, deserves the credit for the idea of actually doing it. Despite this, even I am still amazed each time at how powerful the experience (ritual) is – without fail, each time, and seemingly for all participants.

I can hardly take credit for any of it – I’m just the sherpa who knows the mountain. I only provide, at no expense to me, mind you, a time and space. The mountain itself does the rest, along with everyone who shows up. Over the last year, in fact, I’ve been intentionally low key about these events. I’ve hardly written about them at all, made no more than brief mentions on the podcast, and only occasionally marked their occurrence by posting highlight photos on Facebook or Instagram. Sometimes, I only post the photos on my own account.

Why so quiet? It seems unlike me. Part of it, I won’t deny, is practical – these aren’t secret events and there’s nothing illicit about them, but they aren’t entirely open to the public, either. Why promote an event to you that you aren’t invited to? But it’s more than just that. I need to show my companions respect and consideration. I can’t just write about them and tell their story; even if that were something I wanted to do, which it isn’t, I’d at least have to ask permission first.

There’s also the fact that these moments in time prove so special and moving and, well, sacred, that you can’t just write a chronicle or travelogue about them. Suggesting such a thing can be tamed and harnessed with words is both hilariously arrogant and demeaning to the events themselves – something I’m certain is obvious to anyone who’s been there. Something like this…you just gotta let it be itself, you can’t be trying to nail it down or box it in or translate it, at least in anything that comes close to its entirety, to the consensus reality we all find at the bottom of the mountain.

All of this remains true, and yet here I am now – I seem to be talking about it all of a sudden. Yeah. Don’t get used to it. But as we enter this more contemplative season (#MichaelScott) I’m finding, not just after this particular climb but having experienced all of them cumulatively, that some balance needs to be found here. For me, at least, these experiences have become too big, too important, to remain entirely silent about them.

So I won’t. But I promise to keep them mysterious nonetheless.

Pilgrims and fools and chaos

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2018 seems to have been, for many people and for many different reasons – perhaps intertwined, perhaps not – a year of rapidly increasing and accelerating chaos, and not in the fun way. This is the mean Trickster and not the funny one. Further fouling the air is the sense that this is no blip but rather an enduring condition or, worse, the harbinger of even deeper chaos to come.

(Beyond stating that I generally agree with the preceding statement, I’m not going to weigh in on this in detail at this time. I’ll note only that both Coppock and White seem to be in agreement that we’ve got some pretty relentless and intense Weird and even Upheaval between now and 2021. Buckle up; I can only quote the good doctor: “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” Now is your time – you know who you are.)

All this raged on below as we ascended to the Other Worlds, a central part of the power and experience of this glacially carved ritual. Today, the Equinox, was a day on which Light and Dark were balanced and even. This is not the territory of sprites and angels and warrior monks as is the Summer Solstice, nor is it the solemn turf of the rebirth and ultimate victory of light from darkness as we find at Midwinter. This is less defined than that – meaning it’s more open to possibility, to making of it what we will, at least to a certain degree, even as it dispenses on us what it yet wills in turn. There’s a dynamic interplay there.

Me personally, stepping into the winds of Monte Rosa, I found myself arriving in a state of uncertainty, slightly battered maybe, with the edge having been robbed from my usual balance and confidence. Hardly unexpected, of course, given that I’m as much affected by the chaos of these times as anyone else, but it was clear in that space that this sacramental observance was precisely what was needed.

As a group, we deftly handled the light and dark blend – 2018’s second soft serve of chocolate vanilla swirl – with care and aplomb. Freely extracting the joy of life from the sky and rock, we laughed about (and took delight in) all of existence, immersed ourselves spiritually and conversationally in the mythic realms – Tolkien’s, at times, but others as well. We were granted the ethereal understanding of the world’s Music. Yet all throughout, we remained acutely aware of the importance of understanding and holding territory, of fighting antagonists – enemies, even – and of the varying states of serfdom under which we live now and may or may not live in the future. We were not dreaming fools on the hill. We were pilgrims, clerical sojourners, artists, knights, and also citizens.

We departed Monte Rosa to brave the perilous cliffs – and their attendant thrones – of The Ampitheater. From the “stage”, I was invited to declamate, and – very briefly, with five words – I did so.

We meandered to the summit and held court for an indeterminate amount of time before descending via a route suggested to us by a berserk – but perhaps beatified – cardiac patient. The path took us back momentarily to our former stronghold, where we rested briefly before making a gentle descent that concluded with plenty of light to spare. Though one of our fellowship had to depart on a longer journey home, three of us posted up over at the Copacabana of Peterborough for our reintegration into the World of the Valley and reorientation to the new season to come.

For all of this, including the fall season, even in such times as these, I am profoundly grateful. The universe is an incredible place to be.

Happy fall.

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