Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Mountaintops and Valleys

A memorable trip into Norway's wonder, 
GeyrangerFjord, photography Ron Forberg

Heights to ponder, depths to cross...a mouth too full for one days chewing. I’ll spread this little journey over two blogs...today a walk toward mountain’s thinner air.
Recently in a connection group conversation, the leader postulated about mountaintop and valley experiences, indicating that the mountain top location as being somehow preferable.
My alpine exploits lean towards a different optic. Having explored high mountain trails in the Rockies, Pyrenees, Andes, the ragged fiords of north western Norway, the Alps, Smokey’s, Scottish Highlands and having sat briefly at the feet of the mighty Himalayas, I’ve chanced to hear the giants whisper.
Inching upward, the high country spreads out...a visual smorgasbord. My paradigm shifts to see far beyond local experiences to vast vistas. Air crisper...vantage broader...I see endlessly as undulating ranges meld to misty multilayered purpled silhouettes. 
Let me call these ecstatic mountaintop experiences. Perspectives few ever have the chance to see, to taste...gifts indeed!
As I’ve climbed, synapse signals warn...numb comes sneaking up behind...oxygen once thick, dissipates with each passing step...the higher, the thinner...thighs send aching cues and lungs like flamethrowers singe and sear...
Those magnificently conditioned few find these symptoms of less effect...not so in my case. A few short steps and wham! Too much time studio dancing with paint brush and palette...not enough with long walks and weights. Breathless fourteen thousand foot introduction to instant trouble...hypothermia shivers confusion. Harsh terrain instructs void of life and jagged rocks lash tender feet...more protection gear required...so much for intentional planning!
Tree line lays far beneath...stomach flips as one slight slip off horizontal’s sliver...and all is said and done! A twisted Juniper explains...life lived on the higher plane faces constant thrashings, all alone. Although I see in her, worn twisted deep lines of perseverant steadfastness, I recognize that this locale is for very few, and for them, a very brief stint. No community or fellowship happening here! This, a very personal sojourn. 
A high desert place!
Weather turns on its fickle heel. Ice cold thrash replaces sun washed senses in a flash to traceless fog. Gone...lost...confusion reigns...leaving blinded and alone. Mountaintops can be more than exciting fulfilling places...there is very little ‘rootedness’ here! 
The higher I climb the harder I can fall!  
Hunkering down, I wait next step...each move a ridiculous dare! Groping...unaware...I edge lower, hope seems gone.
On ascent, my mind a meandering lazy gazing stare of neutral blank toward fantasias nether regions far off pull. Shale slides surrounded, yes, but thoughts ignored...and then, the lonely cry...collar grabbed by whoosh of gold winged warrior’s warning rush...eagle screams it’s voice of haunt...then hush...
Clouds peel back in slow unzip with chinks of light to slow reveal, slivers small with hope not all yet lost. Blankets warmth envelops like ochres brush full glow with atmospheric glazing, body’s frame that shakes and shivers slow, omen far too close, then turns to sigh and slow retreats again from high...as faunas scent wafts up and by...
Mossy outcrops now explode...thousand greens that fast unfold...
Florals mantle dash and splash...lavenders to great swashed gold...
Flaming red and off white mist, commingled one...
Euphoria...a King’s intent I’m told!
If today, by chance I passed not this way...
To whom would glory care or see?
The questions comes...why ask why?
What if? 
Design or happenstance?
Cultures mass declares as one...greatest lotto ever won...
Soup to splendor...just by chance...lucky us, to sing and dance!

A few years ago...the Himalayan foothills, Nepal...
photography: J. Douglas Thompson

Rushing waterfalls and crystalline mountain streams invade senses. Soft breezes puff softly and coolly against necks nape. A deer stops, stares, alertness bounces off...pogo stick on steroids...black curtains close, enveloped majesty. Great elk bugles authority across distant meadow. The soft rain begins. First, a gentle mist and then the deluge. Radiant warmth of peeled back sun, changed to gray of drenching.
Onward toward the lowlands, an arena where if the sun shines, shadows deep are thrown. Surrounding heights envelope as mist-like giants hover ominously overhead.
Thoughts wander regarding the mountaintop versus the wide expanses of the lower plains and valleys of life’s experience? Having regularly experienced both life’s very highs and deepest lows, often referred to as artistic, ascetic, melancholic tendencies, please allow me a brief reflection.
If found on life’s mountaintop...drink deep the brief splendor. 
This vast perspective brings pleasure’s intensity and yet potential insight as to our own inadequacies, relative smallness and deep personal need. Although vast beauty surrounds, this is a rocky desert experience which points us to the necessity for community, where others contributions and gifts profound, are laid, large or small at the feet of our lives. It is in the loneliness of the desert heights that props tumble far below us, leaving opportunity to gain insight into our greatest needed areas of growth.
We are called for relationship. We are made to need each others warmth and are meant to be yoked as burden bearers. 
Volcanic peaks that stand alone, invite with surface beauty and distant smiles, but turn, spewing searing molten laced lava, when backs are turned, leaving the gray lifeless ash of legalism or false innuendo!
Position means little...altitude less...serve and be served where planted...yes...bloom right there, not in constant search for personal greens of different hue but content in gifted green bestowed.
Be aware that lofty experience is temporal at best. I was not made to be like the mountain goat whose home is the ramparts.
We all come down...
We need to come down...
He brings us down...
He certainly continues to bring me down! 
Seems like there may be more life in the valley after all! 
Community, to be sure...walks through pasture land. Just keep in mind the other sheep leave not always pleasant green, so with patience and other gifts, please watch where you step, as you ingest lessons learned on a solitudes higher plane.
Personal renewal often requires visiting the pain of cold, icy mountainous desert blast, bringing realization, that our deepest needs can only be found in one source alone, Abba. They cannot be completely be resolved in one or several human sources, who can give only partial streams of hope and encouragement. God chooses to use a multiplicity of source gifts to bring wholeness back to our wasted spirits. Each of their conduits of grace filled gifts lead us back to the ultimate source of the gifts, where the desert dryness can become lush and green again.

GeyrangerFjord, Norway...to be honest, after the shot, 
I carefully got to me knees and crawled back to safety!
photography Ron Forberg

Soli Deo Gloria
J. Douglas Thompson...SDG
Copyright 2011