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3.16.2008

Monday: Holy Week

Let me tell you about the mountains.

Not just any mountains, but the mountains in my desert. I have mentioned them before. I have mentioned how they are lit by the sunrise. I will mention it again, only this time with more words. More words about the mountains and fewer about palm trees and the definition of beauty.

The mountains don't think much about the palm trees. Sometimes they watch them grow. They watch as the thin stalks sprout from their wooden crates, rise up like dazed giraffes, take root in firm earth, bend with the wind, wither, and pass away. The mountains see all this and more.

They see the desert shrubs grow and beget more desert shrubs. They see the shrubs unearthed - the earth covered by another housing development. The people come and go. There are cars; there are planes; there are roads wide and winding. The mountains see all these things.

The mountains bear with the howling winds. They shield the city from much of this. They shield the city, also, from much rain. Even snow is caught up in their rocky peaks, only to be seen by those below - not a flake falls on the city. And still the mountains stand, barely moved, unshaken, firm and resolute.

These are particular mountains. They are the brown mountains that rise up against the back of Palm Springs. They are rocky and bare most of the time, passable in most places only by the bighorn sheep who step gingerly between their boulders, gently down their slopes. Brown and boring: ugly.

These are ugly mountains.

That is the simple truth.

What more can be said of them but that they are brown and boring: ugly?

And they know this. After all, they are mountains. And nothing in nature has the wisdom of a mountain - all else shifts and unsettles, rises and falls, with swift abandon. To move a mountain requires eons or miracle. They know many things. They know of their own ugliness, but - but - they do not think of it.

This is what the mountains think of:
The dark, spread not like a blanket but like a pervasive gas, filling or being the air sits all quiet and cool as though it is the only Thing. Then, almost without being noticed, there is the slightest glow. It fills the whole of the darkness, thinning it as it grows from glow to earnest light. That light, newly concentrated at the edge of the earth, just across the wide valley from the face of the mountains, suddenly expands in glorious colour of red and orange, blue, yellow, peach, vermillion - there are no names for the colours it takes: it is colour throwing itself over the sleeping world.

This is what the mountains wait for so patiently. The dawn, not the rocky structures beneath, keeps the hills in place so certainly and so long. This is what makes the rain and snow so good to bear. Who would not want to shield and stand for the city when this is the great reward?

It is worth observing, too, that the mountains are not ashamed of their ugliness before the great and glorious light of the morning. They need no bloom of spring to reaffirm their worth to wandering eyes. They are satisfied to stand and see. Bereft in the best way of all self-consciousness, they bare their rough, untamed bodies to the sky heedless that such a baring is to the earth as well. And why should it be heeded, when they, too, are earth? Is it not that the mountains are only honest and true? And should some spring arise in which the sky has blessed the mountains with rain enough for blooms, do the mountains not know it for the sky's gift? Truly, they do not wear the grass and flowers as their own fashion, but as the prodigal bears the robe upon his back, draped there by the eager blessing father meeting him halfway to the gates.

Let us be like the mountains, careless of ourselves, careful of the world, and completely enamoured - face full forward, waiting unblinking with utter abandon for the Light of life. (And should that Light, with all its colourful glory, make our rocky faces strangely lovely, let us still be careless and wholly transfixed.)

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