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The Mountains May Move Us

Thursday, June 28, 2012
For those of us in the city, getting outdoors is a way to feel present in the moment and appreciate our surroundings. We become more in tune with the physical nature of our bodies and the ecosystems around us, but sometimes the feeling creeps in that we're only seeing part of the picture. The potential for a deeper experience exists, but where do we start?

Engaging in the spirit of service is a powerful way to build greater connections on our outdoor adventures. The interactions I've had with local community members in the places they love and where I've traveled inspire me to stay humble and aware of the world around me.

Clarity is a funny thing. Sometimes it hits us when we feel so small opposite a mountain, the stillness and motion of air the only sound for miles. Other times though, we may be sifting compost on a farm in rural New Mexico while cursing the bitter cold winds. Our heads will ache and our fingers will go numb, but our comfort is secondary to the livelihood of this man we've only just met. The pile of dirt is worth $3,000, and he's trusting us to not screw it up. We move faster. Storm clouds roll in closer over the mountains, and they do not wait for the day's work to end.

A heaping dose of humility is followed by the realization that so many lives are constantly changed with the seasons and at the whims of the weather. Our perception of the outdoors changes, and we accept the challenge. We can now begin to piece together the snapshots of our ideal for a more rounded view of the landscape as it really exists.

Each image of this place has a thousand lives beneath the surface. In some cases, that many years of history present themselves as well. Two hours south at the Santa Fe Indian School, we've been asked to assist in the groundbreaking of an outdoor classroom. We must construct the layout in an octagonal shape, according to the cardinal directions and position of the sun. After a faculty member recites a Native American prayer, we go straight to work again. We've never used a compass and rope with such purpose before, but we're determined to stick with tradition as the desert sky looks more promising today.

In honoring the places we visit, we come to view the experience in terms of relationships with both the people and the land. Natural beauty is never far from our minds, however. Lifelong residents of our dream destinations, like an 80-year-old woman named Mary I met in a church yard in Taos, knows this better than anyone. She said, "Once you look at those mountains and they stare back at you, you're hooked."

The mountains may move us to travel, but the bond is what stays with us after we've left.

Submitted by Paige Trubatch