“I am convinced, both by faith and experience, that to maintain one’s self on this earth is not a hardship but a pastime, if we live simply and wisely”
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden
I like silence. Not the silences muddled by the buzz of the lights or slow blinking of my phone charging. I enjoy the silence you find on a mountain peak. It is the type of silence that is such a stark contrasted void to our everyday lives that your mind begins to wane. That moment is so shocking that when every thought vanishes from your mind, struggling to grasp this void, you’ve reached an unfathomable silence; that is the moment I yearn for. As the shock subsides and you’ve grasped once more your thoughts, you can begin to hear the stars humming in your ear because you are indeed close enough to graze their edges.
To be truly alone with oneself is a courageous endeavor. You might be surprised at how difficult it can be to stand on the edge where the earth meets heaven and be alone. It is hard to know what to think when there’s nothing around to give you a hint. This is sometimes a fleeting moment as you are not the only one in search of this mountainous cathedral but nevertheless you are alone for that moment. Below in the valleys we are bombarded by reflections every day. These reflections are of us but they aren’t us. These mirrors that we look upon to “discover” ourselves and “measure” ourselves come in the form of ads, magazines, books, music, movies, and other people. Often when I stop to think about why I don’t like someone I find that I see a reflection of myself in them, of things I actually don’t like about myself. That is a hard pill to swallow, admitting that you don’t like a quality of yourself. It is much easier to hate and deny it in others than to face it in ourselves. But what about what this world makes us into? We are after all a product of our environment, right? I’ll agree with this to an extent. When you are caught in the middle of this maze of mirrors all you know is your reflection.
You know about yourself what you have seen and can relate to in this world. Whether that is echoed back to you by reading something you can understand or what someone tells you it suddenly becomes a “fact” that you “know” about yourself. These multitudes of reflections have created what we consider to be who we are. We build who we think we are by piecing together the various images of ourselves that we are happy to focus on. Each of those images though is just a sliver of the whole, focusing on just an angle or aspect of ourselves. This is where the sum really doesn’t equal the total. I feel like there’s still something missing no matter how complete of a picture we try to draw from these worldly reflections that we think we identify with. We “identify” with so much in our world it makes my head spin. Too much dissection occurs by creating ourselves this way; it’s too granular, too magnified in certain areas which aren’t always authentic to begin with. Even if the reflection you choose to focus on is coming from what seems to be the most pristine, glassy lake, it’s still a reflection and not the real thing. I’m constantly racing through my career and life working hard to build my world based on these things I “identify” with. It’s exhausting and doesn’t really make me happy.
That silence though, that emptiness that surrounds me in that moment, that is what renews my soul. I crave that loneliness. It is a freedom to gaze into myself and see not a reflection through the lens of what societies say I should be but to see ME through MY lens. To see nothing but the reflection of the light and love of the heavens above in me and for once not my reflection in society, that is the epitome of a calming experience.
This is why I went to the Blue Ridge Mountains last weekend. One night alone in a tent on a grassy knob in the middle of the Pisgah National Forest does more for me than a week at a spa. Just me and my camera and the freedom to create, that’s all I need to be happy. I’m thankful for the ability to go and do what I love. I’m blessed to have the life that I do and a husband who celebrates who I am in this life. I am happy that some of my photos can convey the beauty that I experienced and that you are looking at them right now.
I encourage you to find your mountain top, find your peace. Not everyone enjoys cold hard ground to sleep on or fearing that the rustling outside is a bear rummaging through your camp, but everyone should have their own mountain top. So find it and visit it often. Rely not on what reflections you see every day but on what you discover and feel all on your own!