Everyone looks to the mountain’s peak, a towering giant that makes a man feel small and insignificant. They stand in a state of awe induced panic, wondering how something so massive could share the same space as them. In that moment, are they no more than the ants they professed themselves gods over.
When the sun sets in the evening the mountains seem lonely. They seem like younger cousins of the celestial bodies watching the dawn and twilight of men. Standing on a dusty street, you can almost feel alone in the world, that sense of melancholy and majesty of the mountains sweeping through the air.
The mountains were there long before my birth and they’ll be there long after my death. One day I’ll take my grandchildren to see them and I’ll sit near the water of the Milford Sound and ponder how the days slipped away and I lost my youth. On that day, the mountains will hardly look any different, the years having slipped off ingot and crevice. One day my grandchildren will do the same with their grandchildren, and so on, and the mountains shall linger.
Why do people gaze at mountains? Why do they travel halfway across the world to a remote valley to remove themselves from everywhere else as much as possible? Why do year after year people try and die to conquer Mount Everest? Mountains are the closest us mere mortals ever reach to touching immortality. They are the closest we ever get to permanence. If we conquer mountains, if we gaze into eternity through one side to the other, maybe we leave part of ourselves in that moment. Maybe in that moment, we are immortalized in the mountainside.
Sometimes, we need to feel small, like a speck against enormity. Sometimes, we need to view something larger than ourselves, to see the summit bathed in the light of the sun and to know that something will be there long after we’re gone. Sometimes, we need wonder, we need spectacle and we need to know that the world is still full of surprises. That the ground isn’t always flat. Sometimes, we need to climb mountains. Sometimes, we need to know that there are some mountains we can never climb, some things still left untouched by man.
Looking at peaks I’ll never reach on mountains I’ll never climb, I’m filled with an emotion that I cannot describe, no matter how many thesauruses I read. I see the years before, the eons stretching silently and I see all the events of my life, all the excitement and sadness I’ll ever feel, caught in one image. In that moment, I feel alive.