photographs and mountains

Kathleen McTigue gave a moving sermon at USNH this morning.

She told a story about meeting an older woman at the top of Mt Adams, who, upon reaching the peak, hurriedly got out her camera and took a dozen photos while turning 360 degrees. When asked why she said this was her habit: she loved to hike but had become nearly blind and could not see the view. But she would later be able to look at the photos up close and see the beauty of where she'd been.

I'd just seen a tv show about a man who takes blind teenagers mountain climbing. He said you don't need sight to experience the unique awesomeness of being on top of a mountain, that you can feel the elevation, and you can hear the immenseness around you that is unlike anywhere else on earth.

I think sometimes what we are experiencing is so grand that while we are experiencing it we can't see it at all. Some things are too big to see from the inside. Memories and photographs show the details of things we want to identify, but not until after we've come down from the mountain.

While you're up there just pay attention, take some pictures, and trust that you'll be able to name it another time.

It's time to revisit Rilke:

Do not observe yourself too much. Do not draw too hasty conslusions from what happens to you; let it simply happen to you.... Your life...of which I think with so many wishes. Do you remember how that life yearned out of its childhood for the "great"? I see that it is now going on beyond the great to long for greater. For this reason it will not cease to be difficult, but for this reason too it will not cease to grow.