Spring comes late high up in the mountains. The higher you go, the later it arrives.
If you’re willing to climb, to let go of each springtime as it arises and recedes below, you can enter into that alluring freshness of new grasses and radiant wildflowers again and again until you finally reach the glaciers, the frozen fields where yesterday’s snows and tomorrow’s will soon meet and blend
Here is a true intersection of past and future, where the streams of time melt off, dissolve, as do all things born of time, to become the cold clear glacial waters—the flowing streams of the present.
What a profound adventure to follow those streams right up to their source. Returning to the source is always the best way for a human being to go. Walk right up the cascading path of icy crystal, step from stone to hoary stone all the way to the blue-white glaciers above, near timberline, where spring, summer, and fall all arrive and depart in September. A mile and a half below, this year’s spring has come and gone some months ago.
As you wander the mountain streams up to hidden ravines and lush valleys, you enter places that have only just become, perhaps even today, alive with color, overflowing with that fresh vibrancy that is the richness of what has been named “spring.” The flowing water is frigid, born only moments before of a melting glacier.
Monkey flowers grin clownishly on the banks—banks thick with violets and monkshood, fragrant bog orchids and a score of others, which most have allowed to decay, leaving only empty names and dry pieces of knowledge. The breath of life can be squeezed out by the acquiring mind.
Always watch this warily; be on guard so you don’t let the profound decay into the mundane. Let others sanction the mundane. Why should you?
The flowers dazzle with a display that is totally, completely innocent, with none of the pretense of an exhibition. There’s not a sign of anyone up here. They all stick to the trails. Most will only see what others have seen before and look in the same manner in which others have looked before. Why should you? Who are you anyway?
No others have seen this artless show this spring or will see it before autumn arrives in perhaps another week, before winter arrives in perhaps two. Only the squirrels chirr in the branches while raucous nutcrackers fly overhead performing flips and stalls mid-flight.
People are always performing for others, always concerned with self image. They may watch for the expected reactions of others, but not their own, so action becomes the insidious work of self-image feeding itself. Where there is self-consciousness there is no innocence They carry their images like precious tonnage. How many have gone beyond?
Gone beyond praise and blame, no longer caught with the prism of image, but rather unconsciously manifesting beauty and freshness naturally? How many would know what it is to drop the frozen image and let it dissolve as do the glaciers? How many would walk in the mountains and participate in Spring? Even for a moment.
Even for a moment you must pass beyond to innocence and freshness, and then beyond that innocence and freshness to those that are not mere pieces of knowledge—to that unstained memory and imagination.
Then that timeless instant may stand to purify all the rest. Then you have lost yourself in it all and become a flower of the spring. Whether that spring is long or short matters not, for it is a spring that is filled with intensity and beauty. If it is short, then that very brevity serves to enhance and intensify. Whether it arrives in April or September doesn’t really matter.
A raven is circling high above. The circles of jet black erode almost lazily into soft gray traces, which dissolve and vanish on the billowy clouds. The clouds to the west are joining together, flattening, forming thunderheads.
The breeze has turned cool. Overhead a large patch of deep blue. Faraway thunder rolls through the afternoon. It passes through you, felt as much as heard.
The bold gray and white nutcrackers turn and dart in the air. They alight on a huge snowfield, cracking the seeds from the cones of the whitebark pines, highest of the trees. The incessant winds have twisted them inoto a thick tangle of contorted shrubs. The birds are a gregarious lot and socialize clamorously as they devour the seeds.
The white snow has become littered with broken cones. Acres of pussywillow grow like a maze along the sparkling rivulets that pour and divide from the glacier. The raven has become a small black dot.
Everything of the past and future is within that dot. Flying away. Becoming smaller and smaller. If you don’t keep a question now, the dot will become larger again. That’s the way of things. Ask yourself deeply, searchingly, about the flowers. Ask yourself for whom they bloom each spring in September?
Long ago and far away….
Excerpted from Journeys on Mind Mountain
In our heart’s and mind’s eyes we can all journey up the trail to a high mountain meadow and enter this scene of blinding wonder.
We can feel the mountain air on our skin and blink in this speechless expanse.
One can easily appreciate why sages have always loved mountains.
How long has it been since the mountains were a true experience of deep solitude and connection with something greater?
Hiking in mountains is a natural sense of moving meditation, thoughts crowded out by the effort required. Each step and each breath naturally wedding one to the present just as it is.
This is where meditation is truly a natural part of our experience, Nature being the only teacher required and the method one knows naturally.
And, yes, this is a real journey made many years ago to a place before it was discovered.
“Something hidden. Go and find it. Go and look behind the Ranges–
“Something lost behind the Ranges. Lost and waiting for you. Go!”
Rudyard Kipling – 1898
If we must be inside our own domains, there is no restriction on our imagination….enter the high places and feel the vastness, the chill of mountain air, and all the sounds only heard in those wild places.
Let’s journey together,
Elana, Scribe for Daily Zen