We are now in the mountains and they are in us… ~ John Muir: My First Summer in the Sierra
John Muir’s quote starts part three of Cheryl Strayed’s book wild. It resonated when I read it; I’ve never seen nor hiked the Sierras, but I’ve an affinity for mountainous places.
Strayed’s words have comforted me for the last hour. A holiday weekend that has challenged me philosophically, theologically, and emotionally, to the point that a silent taping has bore a shooting pain near the left temple.
Truth, I’m not very good with holidays; I’m not very good with family. All trite labels apply: odd duck; black sheep; ugly duckling; or, sister spinster with no hope for a future (hmmm, that one perhaps is not so known); I’ve worn them all: “Hello, My Name is:______”.
wild reminds me of a spirit that is me, really Me. The mountains, when I’m within them, they feel more family than those filled with flesh and bone.
I remember one year** riding in the back of our station wagon*** I couldn’t have been more than eight or so, watching the mountainous landscape become one with the clouds. The light inside me shut down; my body silently shook with tears as I whispered goodbye to their fading faces. My brother learned to hate the mountains; I fell in love with them.
Back to the flatlands on Easter; Dido singing intermixed with the long, slow drill of a woodpecker in a dead tree stand a quarter-mile away. Under wild’s command, I become that girl for a while; the one with a certain constitution that is punkish enough to think, hey, anyone can hike a trail; scale a mountain, alone, even THIS girl.****
Strayed’s words allow me to see that I oft lose sight of being female when surrounded by men. Not that I don’t feel like saying, “damn straight, I am THAT girl, mountain biking down unknown terrain all alone”. I just forget that they may be judging me on a plastic level, be it sexuality, sensuality, or viability. It isn’t until it gets called up that I think, “Hey! they are considering my gender Before my abilities!”
It seems that we shall always be second class citizens, be it in the wilderness; on the golf course; or even in print. It wasn’t until after I penned this that I read Dowd’s article about the Masters, not realizing that it is STILL a boy’s club. Ironically, Ms. Dowd article taps into something else that came to me while writing this (as well as something I posted yesterday, but have since made private) the mater of Jesus and the role of women.
Dowd’s take goes slightly different, placing a focus on where would Jesus have been without the faith of the women folk. What occurred to me, however, was that sexism is inevitable since Jesus will always be a He. How different this twisty world be if He had been a She.
That, though is the irony of it all. It would still be a world skewed. I think we would still label, the first woman to do this; the first man to do that. What would be curious, though; if the women were in ‘power’; would we still be at a place of world hunger; vast blood shed, and human rights atrocities?
Then again, does it boil down to gender, or the human?
Jesus lived by compassion; he was not swept up with thoughts of grandeur in regards to personal power. A woman oft is considered more compassionate, yet those within power demonstrate the same steely edge of a man.
Man or woman, I can tell you this: The compassionate warrior shall always win the battle.
In separateness lies the world’s great misery, in compassion lies the world’s true strength. ~ Buddha
It is the compassionate one; the one who can find compassion in the face of great psychological and physical pain, that will learn how to be part of the mountain and be honored with its grace.
** My parents always went in the Fall; not because it is the most beautiful time to visit; but because we could never afford Colorado during ski season. In all the years I’ve been to RMNP; it wasn’t until 4 or 5 years ago that I saw snow below the ice cap; and that was in September!
*** Think National Lampoon’s style. This was the 80s, way before child safety seats of today.
****I mean no disrespect when I use the term ‘girl’. I’m almost 40, but I’ve no problem using that label. I don’t see it as childish, I see it as a right of passage; and a right, especially since the ‘boy’s club’ still exists when we speak of men.