Every hour behind the computer you’re getting weaker and mountains are still rock and ice and as hard as before. And when you do get out there, when you’ve been walking up a mountain for 3 hours, after the face climb, when your knees are banged up and your knuckles are raw, when you crest the main ridge and still see a path leading up to the summit and you wonder, Is this it?
Where are the long rock spines we were promised?Where are the cliffs and mountain chills that make the body uncomfortable and remind your spirit of its sad mortality? Where are the knife edges and notch finger holds daring you to fall off balance and let go into oblivion?
Where is the fleeting morning light? That grey-transient morning kiss morphing into a golden pre-afternoon blaze? Feel the solar atomic rays frying the DNA of your exposed skin, courting a cancer inspiration set to break out in 10 years time.Where is the death whisper you were promised? The avalanche roar, the glacier snap, that last sound your brain will ever process. The rock breaking loose and your toe slipping off a razor edge. Like that same edge Col. Kurtz crawls along before he’s transformed into something lifeless.
One thought on “Mountain Zen”
You guys rock. Rather vertically by the looks of it. My climb was less of a slope but more of a trip… Peyote Mountain Vision Quest
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Peyote Mountain Vision Quest
Starting out shortly past dawn up the mountain
we climbed the trail over the ridge along a rocky moraine.
Hiking up past the tree line through the late blooming heather
of those high alpine meadows in the Rocky Mountain spring
we wove our way over a slope full of flourishing wildflowers
following the trail along the edge of the timber line
where young saplings of subalpine fir and dwarf pine trees
clung tight to the nourishing roots of their ancestors.
We traversed the Bald Hills through a thick patch of fireweed
up a path grazed by bighorn sheep through dense thickets of heather,
then we emerged from the shadow of Bad Medicine Mountain
into a bright sunlight meadow blessed with beautiful June weather.
Slopes cloaked in monkshood and purple larkspur
amongst blossoming lupines and shooting stars
created an impressionist landscape of colour
through the tears from the cool mountain wind in my eyes.
We sat down to relax on a spongy wet carpet of hair cap moss
gasping for thin air to catch our breath
and as my hiking partner Brad raved about the awesome panorama
I contemplated my immanent vision quest.
Up behind us to the North, in the Back Country wilderness
we heard Thunderbird chanting omens
of a storm brewing over Medicine Lake,
so I decided to wait before I ate the peyote
until we got back to camp down at Sandpiper Creek.
We hiked all afternoon through those high alpine meadows
and when at last we stumbled back down the mountain,
we arrived back at camp starved for something to eat.
So Brad lit a fire to heat up some beans
while I ate the seven peyote buttons I’d saved for the occasion.
As I chewed the leathery flesh of the cactus
I could taste the raw mescaline kick to my throat
as my saliva moistened up each button enough to swallow
and the spit mixed with its potent juices.
With every button I consumed I could feel waves of nausea
swelling up from my gut with that bitter peyote after taste
so raunchy I nearly threw it back up
but I kept it down and as I kept on chewing
despite the harsh taste and the queasy feeling in my entrails
I felt pleasant waves of anticipation
mixed with sheer physical exhaustion after climbing mountains all day
so I went to lay down in my tent for a spell
to rest my sore bones and settle my stomach.
I lay there half an hour with that queasy feeling
and I almost dozed off before the buzz took effect.
Then suddenly I was jolted wide awake
by the geometrically shaped glowing bioelectric purple
vibrating universe inside my tent.
Meanwhile from another dimension outside my pup tent
I heard this loud sort of snorting sound sniffing around
like a hungry beast snuffing down a whiff of fresh meat
and I felt like a beast myself then…gone to ground
in imminent danger…hunted by some great mystery,
every hair on my body stood alert and erect.
Every instinct was tingling as the snuffing came closer
like the sound of a large snout snorting out my warm blooded presence
sniffing my scent through my thin nylon tent.
It crossed my mind…this was not an hallucination.
In that flash of insight…I confronted my death.
After what seemed like an eternity I poked my head out the tent flap
to see the hind end of a black bear ambling away
no more than two feet from me
I could have reached out and touched the beast.
If I’d poked my head out a few heartbeats sooner
the animal and I would have met face to face.
Yet under the influence of the peyote
I felt not the least bit afraid of the creature.
It seemed like the most natural thing in the world
when I realised the bear was my teacher…
Mescalito appearing as my guardian spirit
in the form of my totem animal.
Instinctively I knew there was no need to fear it
as the bear ambled over toward the fire
lured by the smell of Brad’s simmering beans.
It spoke to me telepathically so loud I could hear it
like a voice was projected directly into my mind
which said, “There’s another world right here now inside this one.
Look deep into nature and see what you find.”
Meanwhile, I see Brad run for cover to the car
yelling at me to stay in the tent
“There’s a bear Gary! Stay where you are! There’s a bear!”
While I tried to wave sign language at him to be quiet.
Then I saw the bear cautiously reach out a paw
to flip the hot frying pan full of beans off the picnic table
where Brad had abandoned it when he fled…
The bear slurped the beans off the grass where he’d spilled them
with a few quick licks of his long, red tongue
before leisurely ambling away back into the forest.
He vanished into the dense bush like a ghost and was gone.
I breathed a huge sigh of ecstasy after that wild encounter
as the buzz from the multiverse inside my tent
transformed into a pulsing purple latticework like living tissue
like a projection of the electric neural network in my head
superimposed over a matrix of intricate growth patterns
like the roots and branches of the primeval forest all around me
were speaking a mysterious language of shadows
in strange colours and synesthetic sounds which surrounded me.
Everything was illuminated
by the otherworldly glow emanating from the peyote
and I felt exhilarated by an overwhelming sense of possibility.
So I lay back on my bedroll to stretch out my consciousness
to relax and try to take in these unexpected perceptions.
My uneasy stomach was still feeling queasy.
I felt like puking but all I could come up with was dry retching
as the peyote’s visions began to unreel
the most ultimate multiple realities imaginable
more real than I’d ever believed conceivable before.
In my wildest dreams I’d never envisioned anything so magical.
As I lay there in my tent I began levitating.
Though I lay still on my bedroll I began to fly.
I flew above the trees and up the slopes of the mountain
like an eagle ascending into the sky.
I could see the high alpine meadows we’d hiked all day down below me.
I could see it all clearly in my sharp eagle mind’s eye
only it was like multiple images superimposed layer upon layer
through a dozen dimensions between space and time.
When my spirit returned to the tent it was dark out.
I had no idea how much time had passed.
Brad was standing outside my tent, “Are you okay in there?
Did you see that bear, man? Are you getting high?”
“Yeah, he taught me about the secrets of nature,” I answered,
and I wondered aloud about what time it was.
Brad told me less than an hour had passed
while he waited in the car to make sure the bear was gone.
“What do you mean the bear taught you about nature?” he asked.
I couldn’t explain so I shrugged my shoulders.
Then Brad laughed, “You’re so high, man! You should see your eyes!
Your pupils are so dilated they’re totally black.
like a bird of prey…You should see their size!”
The mountain dusk had fallen though it was still early evening.
I would likely by high all night long until dawn
so I got up out of the tent and went to sit by the fire
to gaze into the flames and make up some peyote songs.
I began to sing by ear as if by instinct
chanting my first impression of my experience
with a vocal emotion of terrible ecstasy
I growled an anguished howl as I shape-shifted my appearance
changing my expression into the frown of a bear
as my altered consciousness dissolved into the mesmerising flames
I found myself lumbering around the forest on all fours
and when I returned to human form sitting still by the fire
all I could do was go higher and higher.
So when I turned over a smouldering log with my boot heel
with a burst of fire sparks flew into the dark mountain sky.
I watched them rise through the void spiralling up toward the Milky Way
trailing tracers like comet tails as high as they could fly.
When finally I came down to earth it was getting light out
and though the afterglow from the peyote still lit up the dark world
I was no longer time travelling through alien dimensions.
Then and there I returned to the here and now…cured.
Cured by the cactus juice of my illusions
about the real nature of beauty and truth,
I felt free to grow up and become a poet
freed by experience from the innocence of youth.