Elyse On the Rocks

Right now I am sitting on a rock in the Garden of the Gods, Pike’s Peak clearly in view, writing about life. I haven’t sat on this particular rock before, but the scene is a familiar one.

For most of my life, even before I was old enough to contemplate the meaning of life and think in metaphors, I have been drawn to nature and will often find myself climbing or sitting on top of a large rock.

A small sampling of the series of photos I refer to as Elyse on the Rocks

When I would climb as a child, I didn’t think about it; it was an unquestioned impulse. I still feel that compulsion, but it’s accompanied now by the thought “I won’t be able to do this forever.” I wonder when the day will come that my grip is too weak or unreliable, my feet lack enough sensation, and my stamina just won’t allow it.

Wonder, not worry.

I know it will happen. When it does, as gracefully as I can I will exhale and release the grief that comes with loss. I’ll pause at the bottom of the breath, stopping time and momentum for just a moment to recenter. Then, with gratitude, I will deeply inhale all of the love and light that remains. (Easier said than done. It’s going to require a lot of self-talk!)

In a previous post, I described the fear of becoming a ‘breathing statue,’ burdening those around me. The idea of being unable to DO is scary and overwhelming. But I’ve found solace here on top of a mountain.

Mountains. They are a thing of wonder. We flock to them, driving hundreds of miles or flying around the world just to be in the presence of one. Some pay millions of dollars to live next to one, while others dedicate their entire lives to studying or climbing them. Just think about where it came from and what it’s been through! It was formed under the most violent conditions; two masses of earth, ever so slowly moving in opposite directions toward each other, collided and crushed one another. Each refused to relent. They continued pushing until one gained the upper hand or their equal yet opposite forces caused them to crumble and self-destruct. The resulting mountain is, to some, majestic and awe-inspiring. To others, overwhelming and formidable. Either way – undeniable. And it doesn’t even DO anything! It just IS. That’s the beauty of it. Its presence is powerful. Embodying peace, non-striving, it is unapologetically itself. Take it or leave it. You have the power to change it, but you’ll have to destroy a piece of it to do so. It is strong, yet vulnerable.

O Truth of Earth – John Ruskin

Mountains are the bones of the earth, their highest peaks are invariably those parts of its anatomy which in the plains lie buried under five and twenty thousand feet of solid thickness of superincumbent soil, and which spring up in the mountain ranges in vast pyramids or wedges, flinging their garment of earth away from them on each side. The masses of the lower hills are laid over and against their sides, like the masses of lateral masonry against the skeleton arch of an unfinished bridge, except that they slope up to and lean against the central ridge: and, finally upon the slopes of these lower hills are strewed the level beds of sprinkled gravel, sand and clay; which form the extent of the champaign. Here then is another grand principle of the truth of earth, that the mountains must come from under all, and be the support of all; and that everything else must be laid in their arms, heap above heap, the plains being the uppermost.

Being on a mountain reminds me that I am one.

One of my favorite poses in yoga is Tadasana, or Mountain Pose. It looks like you’re just standing there, not doing yoga at all. However, underneath the surface every single muscle and fiber in your body is engaged. From your toes to your head, you are aware of each part and calling on it to be present and powerful. There’s no display of flexiblity. No pushing yourself beyond your edge. No complicated contortions. Just you -all of you- at your very best. Your strongest and weakest parts working in together in unison, each as important as the next, so that you can simply be. If someone walked by and give you a little push, you wouldn’t budge. If someone two-hand shoved you – yeah, you’d fall over for sure. Strong, but vulnerable.

I stand here before you as simply myself, a mountain – of the earth and reaching for the sky, myriad elements combined. Unalloyed. My presence is powerful.

I remain strong, yet vulnerable.

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