Everybody wants to reach the peak, but there is no growth on the top of a mountain. It is in the valley that we slog through the lush grass and rich soil, learning and becoming what enables us to summit life’s next peak. -Andy Andrews
Doing a ski season in the Alps, with three kids, was like a mountain summit for us. It was a dream we set in motion just after leaving the USA in 2013. We have lived in Cervinia, Italy for six months (with no car), in one of the highest villages in the Alps, and the lessons are just beginning. Now, as we watch the snowmelt, listening attentively to spring cracking open with each booming avalanche, what once felt barely attainable in our dreams, is coming to a very real end. For guidance about what is next, we reflect on what these mountains have taught us this season:
Mountains teach us modesty
Mountains remind us that the world is not entirely man-made, controlled, and predictable. They call to our attention that we need to be durable and prepared without rigidity and inflexibility. Mountains command humility with their sheer angles and beautiful faces.
Mountains teach us awareness of breath
As Sir Edmund Hillary stated, “It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.” Mountains have the power to make us feel small in all the right ways. When we first arrived in October and were acclimating to the altitude, we were all closer to our bodies that we have ever been. Our heartbeat was noticeable, each breath was conscious, our vision was almost dreamlike at times in its blurred edges. There is no more powerful reminder of what matters than awareness of each breath. When we are out in the mountains, we are drawn to stay, listen, watch, play, wonder, and breathe.
Mountains teach us that there is no finish line
Mountains are the physical manifestation of the saying, “It is all about the journey.” This winter, as we set out to “achieve” certain things, the mountains reminded us who was in charge. With record-breaking snowfall, wind chill like we have never experienced followed by glorious, blinding sun, it only took moments outside to give ourselves up to the mountain. It is not about getting there, it is about reaching new heights with each step because when you get to top of any mountain, you are simply at the bottom of another greater climb.
Mountains teach us that human connection is life-altering
In the mountains, the people who know them best, are the best people to know. We were reminded this season of something we have always known but is easy to forget in our digital age. People are the best resource. We have made a habit of going out in the village to check in with what is happening. It may sound obvious but with weather apps and webcams, news tweets, and tickers, looking down versus up seems to be the norm. If you don’t look up and connect with the people who know the mountains best, it can be a matter of life and death. Thank you Lino’s Bar, Berthod Sport, Il Cervino, Heliski Cervinia, and We Snowboard (just to name a few), for sharing your infinite winter wisdom with us.
Mountains teach us that we are all “hitched”
Nature heals, soothes, restores, and connects us and it is always there, even when we don’t notice. Whether we live in mountain top villages or urban jungles, nature reveals itself to us when we pay attention. The less time we spend connected to the natural world, the higher our risk of depression, loss of empathy, and lack of altruism. As John Muir stated, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” There is no greater lesson than the knowledge that we are all connected.
We will leave these mountains, but they will never leave us.