A Walk in the Mountains
This morning I walk in the mountains. I feel like abandoning life, beating a path of rugged undulations into the mountain, to erase the outside and explore the vast, empty wilderness inside this dark and fertile void of my being.
The morning mist descends, sinking gracefully below the mountain peaks that rise above it like guardians. It embraces the early morning silence as it diffuses the light of the sun’s rays and subdues the echoes of the birds’ morning symphony in the valley forest. As the winter sun ascends with grace, spilling its radiant light over the land, it casts warm, golden lines across Earth’s cool, shaded curves. And in the mist below, an infinite number of misty droplets, each absorbing and reflecting the entire sunrise. With the sun’s touch the Earth awakens, her magnificent form accentuated, unveiled, her contours bathed in hues of dazzling golden light. The birds now begin to celebrate the dawn, their trance-like chorus harmonising with an almost imperceptible pulse that feels as though it could be the very heartbeat of creation. And there I stood, an awed witness, placing one foot before the other, traversing an unknown trail and embarking on an inward perambulation of discovery and connection.
This place draws me inwards, circling closer and closer towards a silent retreat inside myself. In that familiar place I feel harmoniously aligned to this mountain, a familiar union between the still light of the Self and the light of Nature. The light of Nature reaches out with its tendrils and touches my light. With each breath I consciously embody this intimate embrace, weaving these sacred threads of love between my heart and this mountain.
As the sun rises I walk more swiftly, my body craving the sensation of movement, lungs breathing hungrily. Now it is my sense of smell that is flooded with infinite messages. Each inhalation a tapestry of scents from the wild space of the high fynbos slopes. And the flowers! The air is a perfumery of intoxicating scents, condensed botanical fragrances, the smell of a wet earth warming in the morning light, the invisible chemical messages of a thriving ecosystem of living creatures. I rise above the ground and with my mind’s eye envision an interweaving of fragrances that become a vast ocean of these chemical messengers, of mingling and merging currents floating above a living Eden. The air itself is cold and fresh and I take deep recharging gulpfuls. In this mountain breath I find solace and renewal, the kind of replenishment that the Earth Mother offers so freely and abundantly. The cold air floods my warm chest and it bites so sweetly.
But more than that, this walking feels like it is a weaving between the inner searching and the outer unfolding of a human life rejoicing in the fortune of living another single precious day. These steps bring new life to my inward trail. I feel so lucky to walk here and I feel embraced by this majestic mountain. In its presence I feel fully alive, my soul spinning, singing and humming with deep recognition of kinship with this living place.
As the sun rises and casts a seemingly sentient light on the peaks above, the sight of it invites me to sit down and soak it up. I drink it in, starting by sitting upright, then gradually edging closer to the ground until I am lying down wholeheartedly, my whole being saturated with its warmth. I drift into sleep on that warm rock, my body surrendering to the earth and to the sun. In this daydreaming state I call to the sacred threads of light that are woven into this living body of the natural world. This surrendered state makes way for a clear inner vision and through the mists of time a visitor appears:
An old indigenous Khoisan man walks towards me from this image-encrusted fabric of the dream realm. He tells me that he has lived within the folds of this mountain for thousands of years. He wants to know why I am here and why I carry such an unfamiliar scent. He tells me that he wanders through these mountains endlessly, patiently waiting, observing and bearing witness. Wise as the mountain itself, he may well be the very essence of this towering place, come to welcome me. There is a stillness inside him that haunts me because it is enticingly beautiful, dark and primal and potent. The leopard purrs inside him. His breath smells of wild honey. The plants have become his skin. He embodies the fabric of a dream, as though he were made of the stuff of a mountain’s own psyche. It is the gods that speak to us like this, appearing as simple men, but with the scent of the extraordinary.
After an hour or so, I awaken from this tranquil sleeping meditation. A cascade of love for the mountain surges through me, from my heart flowing outward, saturating me with a profound feeling of kinship to this sacred place.
I love you, mountains. I love you for these gulping breaths of fresh air, for lungfuls of sweet fragrances. I love you for your labyrinthine trails, your towering vastness, your majestic presence, your sheer massiveness. I love you for the enigmatic spaces that appear with each step I take along these rocky bones that expose themselves through your fragile soil skin. I love your abundant unfolding greenery, a cascade of life in vibrant hues of living things. Beloved mountain, you encompass all that I hold dear, so many things I love find shelter within you — ancient trees, secret valleys, pools and waterfalls, the sunrise from lofty peaks, the primal potency of dawn’s birdsong. I love how, wherever I wander within you, I can never truly arrive. I love how I can become lost in your wilderness, losing my way back home. I love that if I were to dwell in you once more, I would reclaim my wildness and feel that I finally found home. I love how time slows down here, changes form, unveiling another world’s presence. I love immersing myself in the primal darkness of the earth, there hides a wild magic, in plain sight. In my heart, I hold this mountain — the entirety of it — inside. Love expands my heart to encompass its vastness. This love stretches me.
Everything has become the face of the Beloved now. All Nature is made from bursting-bright light and saturated in love: The flowers, with their million faces turned towards the sun; the aloe glistening with morning dew; the sun that swims inside a dewdrop; the rays that warm the earth; and the ants that crawl, in their microscopic universe beneath my feet.
With these soft eyes of oneness I see the signature of Divinity in that tree, since it was a tiny seed, coaxed by dew and warmth, awakened to surge and sprout. And now this tree embodies the Beloved’s face, ever-present in the earth. The tree is His face now with earthly form that speaks to my heart.
When the Earth is thirsty, it yearns for Him in the rain. When it is cold, He is the sun. I see how the mountain is longing only for the Beloved and how it is in this yearning that rain falls, that sun shines, that seeds flourish, that the aloe glistens, and the ant carries on. Everything within the Earth points to this profound love affair. Everything materialises as a manifestation of this yearning and reciprocation of divine love.
I call on myself to tune in to the frequency of love, the channel of longing. Open my eyes to the unity of longing and witness that it is one note that reverberates throughout all creation. This note I hear is a melodious love song that tells the tale of a divine romance between Earth and her Beloved. I am drawn back in time, a thousand years ago, to the great Persian poets who so perfectly described this love. And here in this juncture of today’s ecological predicament I see this same love story played out between the Earth and her Beloved. She is the embodiment of this love affair between heaven and matter. She pulsates with a heartbeat turning on an axis of His love. She embodies the longing for the touch of the Beloved and her endless sunrise and sunset are the result of Him turning her heart in his fingers. It is the harmonious dance of unity present in all things. The vast ocean resides within the river and the entirety of the river resides within a single flower.
This mountain incubates and holds the potency of divine presence, the sacredness of the source of everything which is alive. This mountain embodies the music that is at the centre of the world. What great strength and presence it must take to hold the magnificence of this living song of creation. Each mountain a crucible for the Earth’s sacred singing, like an instrument each with its own unique melody, its own fragrant sounds. The shape and curve and emptiness of the valley, a giant cauldron for holding the million voices of the birds and all the living creatures that rest in the folds of her rocky skin. And lest we forget the songs of the flowers opening to the sun and bowing closed to the moonlight or the sense of clouds capping the peaks and settling silence inside the valley whilst the peaks remain elevated.
To be sure, the mountain is an inner rising to the highest point signalling those who see them to reach inside their rugged depths and find new routes to their inner elevations. The mountain’s spirit peaks, reaching heights that stand above all men, a high alp that others aspire to reach one day.
Spiritual Ecologist, passionate about African botanicals & the Earth
Steve Hurt’s writing falls within the paradigm of spiritual ecology which approaches ecology from a spiritual perspective. His writing is influenced by shamanism, sufism and a deep love for the earth. Steve currently lives in South Africa and runs a business that trades in African medicinal plants, a trade that is driven by his wish to preserve the rich heritage of African medicinal knowledge for future generations.