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No Likeness to That Human World Below

You ask me:
Why do I live
On this green mountain?
I smile
No answer
My heart serene
On flowing water
Quietly going
Far away
Another earth
This is
Another sky
No likeness
To that human world below
~Li Po, On The Mountain: Question And Answer
(translated by C.H. Kwôck & Vincent McHugh)

Three days later and I’m still on a mountaintop. The aches and pains fade but the glow of walking the ridge line between peaks stays with me. And I wonder at this world I’ve created for myself, pressed in close to a desk, laptop at the ready, always asking for more. The mountains don’t ask for anything of you, but it’s understood that they demand respect.

Solo hiking, for all the social abuse I receive for it, offers meditation and a connection to the mountains that you don’t get with even the quietest, most reverent hiking buddy. So occasionally I like to indulge in time alone on trails, walking until my own voice finally stops talking to me and I begin at last to listen to the song of the infinite.

Yet you’re never quite alone in the mountains. There’s always a fellow hiker on a pilgrimage of their own, with a knowing look and a brief exchange before turning their attention back to the trail. The mountains aren’t entirely about solitude, for there are more people than ever on the trails. And every one of us with a reason for being up there.

There’s an energy that you draw on when hiking with others. A momentum of common purpose, shared struggle, and shared beliefs. I do like hiking with others, quite a lot, and look forward to sharing the mountains with them again soon. Just give me a moment alone with this sky before I reluctantly descend to that human world below. Where I’ll plot my return.

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