Thursday, October 06, 2005

Purple Mountain Majesty

The Rocky Mountains of the western United States are the results of the ricochet of plate tectonics. The North American plate, moving westward, rammed itself into the side of the Pacific plate, moving northward. Since two plates cannot occupy the same space, the collision caused the plates to go up onto each other, creating the Rocky Mountains.
The Rocky Mountains have become a tourist attraction. National Sporting Goods Association claims that over 11 million people go snowboarding or skiing a year. According to the National Ski Areas Association, on average, 39 people die snowboarding or skiing every year.

The airplane was a little late; it was dinner time when we landed in Salt Lake City. We grabbed a little rental car, a bite to eat, and headed down I-15 towards Provo. It was my first opportunity to see the mountains. The mountains in the west darkened as the sun set; the ones in the east seemed dangerously close. I had seen mountains before, but my experience had limited me to the lively Appalachians and the vineyard-covered mountains of Bayern. I had never imagined lifeless, steak-knife mountains and yet here they were cutting the sky into pieces. It became dark very quickly.
The flashes of billboards were the number one attraction. “BUY THIS!” “CHECK THIS OUT!” “YOU WANT TO SEE THIS MOVIE!” I wasn’t convinced by their signs, nor did I have much time for billboards. Traffic was uneasy, so navigating became my first priority. I buried my head in the map. We approached Provo and I gave the signal to exit.
We turned east, and I looked up from the map. My eyes went wide. I leaned into the windshield and looked up.

There was no differentiating between the blues of the mountains and sky. There were stars and then where the mountains were, a void existed. It just ended. I strained my eyes.
I looked up at the stars above the mountains, closed my eyes, and struggled to keep their glimmer on my eyelids. I lowered my head and opened my eyes, trying to cut and paste the image of the night sky to the mountain.
You should never look out and see nothing. It’s unnatural.
I strained harder. I felt like I was waking up in a pitch black room and straining for a trace of light to indicate a shadow, color, something was there with me, but no effort would yield success. The only choice is to resign and close my eyes. It’s better to have your eyes closed than to absorb nothingness with them.
The mountain was mocking me. He was staring at me, claiming that I was the unnatural one.
“Ask anyone,” he taunted, “they’ll say I make them feel safe. I protect them.” Cheshire smile.
The car brought our faces closer together, amplifying the effect. I would not yield to his mind. There is no safety in darkness and he could not convince me that he was doing me a favor by sitting there.
I broke the contact, needing to see light again. I needed to know that the mountain hadn’t completely devoured the rest of the sky while I was staring him down. Stars. He hadn’t. But he had won. I couldn’t stop him from eating the stars and moon every evening. I couldn’t keep him from delaying the sunrise in the mornings. Every night, he would take everything beautiful and make a void.
We can’t live like that. When we look outside, we shouldn’t have to strain our necks to see the moonrise or the constellations. We need freedom. We need movement. We can’t be huddled in a corner, keeping the stars out and calling it protection. It’s not. It’s unnatural.
Lie down and look up. It should just be you and the heavens.

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