from January 30
My first glimpse of the most legendary mountain range on our little planet today. Flying from New Delhi to Varanasi, I absolutely lucked out with my seat assignment: window, left side towards the back of the plane.
I’ve dreamt of these mountains. Any one who knows me knows that I’m a “mountain person,” and seeing the Himalaya–the roof of the world–made my heart skip a beat out of excitement.
They stretched as far east and west as I could see looking out the tiny plane window. Even the high decibel crying and wiggling from the seat in front of me could not interrupt the peaceful awe I was experiencing.
Heavy winter dumps had them gleaming in white and even from our great distance I could see black crags on the steeper reaches. Massive relief made it absolutely clear to me that these are the most impressive mountains on earth. Even from a cramped plane seat. I’ve seen a lot of mountains up close and personal in my twenty-three years: the High Sierra off California, Colorado’s multitude of “14ers,” Wyoming’s Grand Tetons, the Chugach and coastal ranges of Alaska, Cascades of the Pacific Northwest to the Southern Alps in New Zealand and the Alps in Switzerland, Germany and Austria. But they all seemed to pale in comparison to the Himalaya. Despite growing up running around in and then spending my recent years living, working and playing amongst those just listed, I felt their magnificence instantly and it was pretty full on.
The ultimate geographic barrier, these mountains arc the Gangetic Plain and top the Asian subcontinent like a great frozen stone fence. Or the ice cream on top of India’s many climates and landscapes that make the cone. They aren’t impenetrable though, people live there! Tibetans and Tamangs, Kashmirris and Lopas, among others, all call them home. I looked to those mountains with great happiness and excitement for my time there amongst the people who call thee largest mountains on the planet home.
The secret of the mountains sis that the mountains simply exist, as I do myself: the mountains exist simply, which I do not. The mountains have no “meaning,” they are meaning; the mountains are. The sun is round. I ring with life, and the mountains ring, and when I can hear it, there is a ringing that we share. I understand all this, not in my mind but in my heart, knowing how meaningless it is to try to capture what cannot be expressed, knowwing that mere words will remain when I read it all again, another day.
-Peter Mathiessen in The Snow Leopard