I am become a connoisseur of mountains. ;)

Most California mountains are sneaky. They slide under the roads and hillsides, laughing foggy breaths in the dusk and dawn at how well their shaggy disguises of grasses and trees work. You drive along innocently enough, occasionally noticing the clusters of rocky spines along their backs, but it's not until you pass a sign that informs you the elevation has increased to 5000, 7000, 9000 feet, that you really understand how far up you've gone. It's not until Yosemite that the rocky mountainsides burst forth in all their exuberant glory, demanding your rightfully owed awe and reverence. They are young and brash and full of life and excitement.

The mountains around Death Valley are different, though. Someone shoved them hastily, indifferently aside in order to open out the huge flat valley, and they know and resent how they were treated. Ridged and rumpled without care, they glower down into the valley, the heat of their regard cupped and intensified within their encircling presence. Though the Racing Rocks are facetiously named, they are the warning of the mountains surrounding Death Valley: they have not forgotten, and someday they will return to their rightful land.

Utah mountains were a surprise to me. Scarlet and ochre and burnt sienna, and chuckling at my naivete concerning their nature, they draw you in with lazily flirtatious assurance. The deeper you go, though, the more they clothe themselves in elegant ponderosas and thick firs embroidered with ivory aspens, allowing only the occasional flash of cinnamon or dusty rose cliff sides soaring above you. They drape shimmering valleys like strings of emeralds about themselves, connecting the lush meadow jewels with thin, shining silver streams. They are not easy mountains, however — they test their lovers constantly with fire or snow, to be sure those who live and love among them are worthy.

Arizona mountains are another case entirely — these are not the buxom, confident ladies of Utah nor the mischievous or resentful children of California. No, the mountains of Arizona are crones steeped in wisdom, their boulder-jagged flanks clearly demonstrating their disdain for artificial fripperies. Their long, flat tops do not show the joyous exuberance of more enthusiastic peaks; they have not bothered to keep up appearances as they turn inward in deep meditation. The ignored, unimportant lines of human roads twist and twine about the carelessly tossed edges of their multicolored skirts, and the occasional cheerful wink of sunlight on car chrome struggles fruitlessly to coax a smile from their sunburnt lips.

I love the mountains. The Grand Canyon is next; I look forward to what it has to say to me as well.

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