Mountains in ancient literature are places in which the gods reside. They are the places where the bold mortal who risks climbing to the divine homestead will come face to face with magnificence. Among others, this view of mountaintops is reflected in both Greek and Judeo-Christian literature (including the Bible).
At a gut level, I experience the divinity of mountains. The journey to the top of a peak is particularly satisfying when it requires effort to reach the gods. With some regularity, I have hiked a couple thousand feet to sit on a precipice more than once. The most strenuous hike I’ve taken is to hike over 4000 feet via the Starvation Ridge trail to the top of Mt. Defiance in Oregon. (Of course, winter’s gift of an extra ten pounds means I will need to get in shape before trying this again.)
The gods who dwell up high have never — NEVER — failed to provide celestial hospitality once I’ve entered the domain they share with the clouds. Each time I’ve been blessed with a revelation about myself and the spiritual path upon which I journey. I confess I frequently crave the holy time alone in the clouds with the One whom I call God.
Some mountains are beyond the reach of my physical endurance. One of those is my beloved Mt. Hood. Recently, I experienced a not-to-be ignored urge to journey up to Hood. And, so, I drove southwestward from my home. I paused at waterfalls and admired one-room schoolhouses. I stopped and walked along rivers and in small town parks. I was driving hairpin roads and stared in admiration at the beauty of tribal fishing areas.
At one point, I was even turned back by residual snow on my chosen path. Temporarily stuck in mis-interpreted snow depth, I struggled in the midst of tall evergreens to avoid panic. Finally arriving safely at Timberline Lodge, I marveled at the power of winter snows. Though spring melting had clearly begun, the alpine trails that I hiked in August of last year were buried deep beneath tens of feet of snow. The wildflowers of spring are still months away.
So, what epiphany did perpetually snow capped Mt. Hood offer me this time? The One manifests to each in appropriate ways for each. To some, God is an alpine trail surrounded by wildflowers in August. To others the One is a risky slalom to be skied or a place to snowboard with your beloved soulmate. Some perceive the One as a distant image shrouded by clouds. And for still others, God is a warm fireplace safe from snow that piles up outside or a constant presence in the rearview.