Where I am from, people habitually indulge in three major passions: music, mountains – and misery. By the way, the latter is an expression of sheer frustration of not having enough time for the other two and it is he perennial excuse for drinking.
So today I am going to talk about mountains.
Like in any good Austrian family my mothers side provided the expertise in mountaineering and from my father’s side came the musical vein. I could not be persuaded to be any good at either, which automatically rendered me a maverick and to avoid being miserable for the rest of my life I had to leave the country.
And it was during my time living west of the border, I started to really appreciate both: music and mountains.
About an hour’s drive from Vienna the first real mountains of the Alps begin to rise, on average just short of 2000 meters,. They provide ample opportunity for long hikes and interesting climbs for all degrees of difficulty.
So this is why on my birthday I did something very appropriate: I climbed the Rax , a beautiful limestone mountain range with an extensive high plateau.
I do have a karmic connection with that mountain. My mother’s family was among the pioneers promoting the development of the Rax in the late 19th and early 20th century and many trails and huts still bear the familiar names. We did spend many summer there hiking and climbing, as well as skiing in winter.
We even have a saying when someone is feeling miserable or does not know what to do: “Let’s climb the Rax. The Rax does always help”.
Those were my thoughts when I reached the plateau. It was a sunny, but pretty windy day and I was glad I brought gloves and a cap. Early October is a magical time to be in the mountains, as the plants and mountain animals are preparing for the winter rest. There is very little vegetation left and the surface turns brown and yellow, in sharp contrast to the white limestone rocks and the dark green mountain pine.
To be high above the noise and madness of civilisation indeed gets one closer to the sky. There is a very bright, luminous quality to the light and the sky appears wide and limitless. The vegetation is sparse and as we are above the timberline there are only a few mountain pines , crouching close to the ground.
A mountain is something monumental, archaic and sacred. To be that high means also to be closer to the sun. Everything seems to be intensified. The air is sharp, the winds are howling and the rocks are rough to the touch. On a clear day one can see forever and there is already this faint scent of snow in the air.
To be that high is like being elevated. It is like being removed from what is keeping us engaged, down in the plains. It is like being at distance, not separated, but detached.
It is this feeling of being detached while being so close to gods creation. All senses are sharpened. This is why hermits and sages went to the mountains to find what is true in them. To stand on a mountain, high up, in the bright sunlight of midday, above the mist and the fog, in bright sunlight and luminous air is like is getting drunk, not on wine, but on spirit. And the state of this drunkenness is not confusion, but clarity.
Drunken on clarity. That feels really sensational….