Photo by Kelen Loewen on Unsplash

How the mountains made me.

I was born between the mountains, and from then on they sheltered me like a security blanket.

That’s the thing about the valleys — they protect you. The storm will blow over while you’re nestled between them.

The mountains cradle you as you learn to become, as you grow within them, as you stretch and strengthen and eventually emerge from them, having climbed all the way to the top. The mountains support you each step of the way, a sturdy footing.

These are not your lush green mountains. These are the dry mountains of a Canadian desert; tall pine trees, a thick crusted earth; littered with cacti, dried pine needles and fire ants. These are mountains of charred wood, sharp rock, jagged cliff faces. When you walk these mountains, you kick up dust.

These mountains are sun burns and dirty skin. These mountains are ski goggle tans and 2 foot powder. These mountains are fingers sore from holding yourself on the lip of a jagged rock face and feet blackened by the earth.

In these mountains, legs are just legs. They are strong, carrying you over rocky terrain. You can see the ripple of muscle as you step up, up, up. You don’t notice if they rub together as you make your way up. You don’t notice if they look too big when you sit to take a rest, your chest heaving from exhaustion, the sun beaming on your face.

In the mountains, shoulders are shoulders. Not too big, not too wide. They pull you up, hold you still. 500 feet off the floor of the forest, attached by a rope and your strong arms, fingers, shoulders.

In the mountains, your stomach is simply that. Not a tummy too large, one that you poke and prod at. There are no mirrors in the mountains. In the mountains, you are strong. You can eat in the mountains, devour in the mountains. Society doesn’t touch you in the mountains.

When you get high enough in the mountains, your phone doesn’t work, and you are free. No messages, no media. Nothing but you, the air, the sun, the sky, the stillness of nature — and the friends you may have brought with you.

In the mountains, I am loud. Words carry more weight when there are fewer people around.

In the mountains, I am loved.

In the mountains, the parts of you that you don’t like keep you going.

In the mountains, I am free.

When I am on the island, I feel exposed. No matter how much love there is in my heart for the wide open ocean, it carries insecurity over its waters. When there is but a vast nothingness, simply sea touching sky, there are no boundaries. No safety net. How strange it is to not have peaks on the horizon.

I am strongest in the mountains. When I walk the streets I grew up in I feel the most like myself — in each direction rock rises in a familiar fashion. The unchanging matriarchs of my life.

No one loves the mountains because they are small. No one is in awe of the mountains because they keep to themselves. They are big, imposing, taking up the space in the world. They know their worth, just as I am learning to know mine.


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