The beauty of this part of the Rocky Mountains is hard to take. It is impossible to convey.
There is too much of it. There is no scale. As a vision it doesn’t lead anywhere, because at least now, when my eyes are new to it, it all seems indistinguishable. Everywhere I look, there is this same intensity, a grandeur that stuns but does not invite.
Central Texas, where I grew up and largely live today, has its own sort of beauty. It is rather a quiet thing, nooks and hollows and farms and out of the way charms. Crawling with people. I come from a land amenable to the plans of men. Even a town boy like me could see how to make a living from it, if he had to. Stick most anything in the ground and it will grow, if you can get water to it. The main trouble is keeping something else from eating it before you can gather it up.
Central Texas drawls and whispers its sultry available beauty. A man can prosper there.
The love of mountains, however, is an unrequited love. The Rockies don’t need you. They are their own hard self, going up and down and up and on and on. “You can look but you cannot have me,” they say. “I will kill you if you try. I will dry you up. I will take your breath. I will knock you down. I will break your heart. Beginning now.”
That is the voice I hear in the wind. That is the voice I hear in the roar of water. Is this the other side of mountain euphoria? Mountain psychosis?
Something is trying to kill you. You can’t tell where it is, because it is everywhere. You can’t tell what it is, because it is everything. You are being stretched out of shape. You forget to eat. You forget to drink. O, that’s the sneaky thing, you forget to drink. You find yourself falling asleep in the middle of the day, and when you awake it is like a drowning man. Either you are being killed… or you are being perfected. It may amount to the same thing. The problem with Heaven has always been that you have to die to get there.
“You can look but you cannot have me,” the voices say. “I will kill you if you try.”
Well, I am going to try, in the weeks to come. I am going to try to learn how to grade goddesses on a curve. To diminish them to human scale, take them down a notch, so that I can at least distinguish between their parts. I will try, in fact, to make the mountains ordinary, even boring. Capturable.
Otherwise, when I return to the old and familiar, there will only be a blank where memory should be.