This mountain and I have history.
In history mountains were revered. They commanded awe. And we thought we had conquered them with climbing gear and oxygen masks. Dynamite to make roads so we can be propelled to the peak. But these roads miss the point of mountains. Mountains aren’t for conquering. We don’t beat the mountain but we learn from it. It teaches us about ourselves
I always loved fairy tales as a girl. I still have the Anthology of Fairy Tales my grandfather gave me 35 years ago. It’s spine is bent and it’s pages dog eared as a testament to my enjoyment of it. Then as a woman I discovered a book called Women Who Run With The Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés that delves into the history of fairy tales and stories that are passed down. They are guides and lessons.
“Fairy tales do not give a child his first idea of bogy. What fairy tales give the child is his first idea of the possible defeat of the bogy. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon.”
From Tremendous Trifles by G.K.Chesterton
A lovely tale that called to me recently from The Women Who Run With Wolves is called The Crescent Moon Bear, a tale from Japan. In Korea it is called The Tigers Whisker and it appears in other cultures too. A task is given but to achieve the goal first an arduous climb up the mountain must be made to reach the task. To find out that the goal all along was the act of climbing. Go read it, I’ll wait.
This tale is a lesson in rage (the husband). But not to suppress it, that can’t be done. But to channel it, understand it, manage it and harness it’s power. Seeking a wise and calming healing force (the healer), taking the challenge of territory not visited before (climbing), leaving obsessions (spirits), the importance of patience and nurture while you grow (giving thanks to the mountain and feeding the bear), understanding the roaring side of compassion (the bear) and applying this to our day to day lives (going home).
I was inspired by this to plan some photos. So I set off up the mountain with my camera.
So she readied for her journey, and the next morning she went out to the mountain. And she sang out “Arigato zaishö,” which is a way of greeting the mountain and saying, “Thank you for letting me climb upon your body.”
The Crescent Moon Bear
And this mountain and I have history. I’ve learnt with it I need to be respectful. The higher I go the less tolerant it is. To ask permission and give thanks. And leave when I’m asked or else I will be told. While taking the last of these photos, which was far from the end of what I had planned or hoped for, I could hear faint voices. Loud enough to know they were voices, faint enough to not understand the words but tantalising in a way that maybe if you were silent and listened just so you would understand. I assumed there were people on the path. But there was no one. This was the mountain giving me my cue, politely clearing it’s throat. So I gave thanks and left. I wasn’t sad for the photos I didn’t take I was thrilled with the ones that I had and the time I had surrounded by beauty. Honestly in this place even the air smells beautifully.
These photos are inspired by The Crescent Moon Bear. I hope you like them.