Thursday, October 30, 2008

Climbing: Freedom of the Hills

A powerful longing afflicts my heart these days. Today we went up into the mountains to cut firewood for winter. I realized while I was there that I love being there, but I am not free in my heart as I once felt in the forest. I cannot climb the hills freely as I once did without question or thinking. It is a terrible, compromising transformation. Whereas I once roamed unrestrained by anything but my strength, I now find myself fettered at every step.

It makes me unutterably saddened and weary beyond measure. I long for the naive and innocent freedom I used to find such joy in. I seek the untouched purity of the highest heights.

An elusive object to pursue, I have the feeling that I will continue this quest to the end of my days.

 Teton Sunset, from Jackson Hole


Billy Bob Bambino Bombabious Baby the Third said...

Jim, I share your love of and for the mountains. It is no coincidence that when the Lord wanted to speak with man anciently they were led to the mountains. Similarly the temples of the world are referred to as the Mountains of the Lord. I don't know if it is the physical struggle involved with achieving the heights that purifies the body and soul or if it is the change in elevation that affects the closeness to the Lord. But there is surely something to it... It's as real as the mountains on which we may stand.

It's one of the things that I really miss about being in Utah. I certainly wasn't in the mountains as much as I would have liked. But I could always look up and see them there, like a welcome friend or like the steepled churches and temples that dot the land...

Sometimes when the clouds are low on the horizon I can almost see the mountains...

Jim Cobabe said...


Thanks for your supportive comments.

What I miss the most is independence and solitude. I can sense the voice of God, speaking to me in the wilderness. Around others, there is always so much noise competing for attention. The quiet solitude of the wilderness is a fortress of protection and refuge that I can't find anywhere else.

Jim Cobabe said...


I haste to add, the mountains and the wilderness are still here. They wait patiently for you when you have a chance to visit and roam free again.

pgk said...

This longing is something I understand deeply. Before I married I had sunk deep roots into the Utah backrock country--the deserts, in particular those south of Green River and down in San Juan County. It gave me strength to be able to go out and kiss the ground, so to speak.

When I married I still went out with my husband and then my small son. I looked forward to many years of camping and wilderness exploration with my family.

Then my special needs girl was born, and the whole plan to raise an outdoors family came crashing down. For years I endured a kind of voluntary captivity as I worked indoors nearly exclusively to meet her extensive needs. My writing career was completely disrupted, my outdoors life gone in a wisp of smoke. I thought I'd never get either back. Wow, watching shows containing footage of desert landscapes I was familiar with caused excrutiating longing. I know what you're talking about. It's a kind of sorrow at the loss of something enlivening, something vital that lies at root of your heart.

The level of confinement I endured let up a little but never enough for me to make with any consistency those three to five hour drives down into the places that were home to me. When I did get away, I was often called back because my daughter didn't do well when I was away. She'd stop eating, for instance.

The only option was to move down to one of the areas that had been important to me. In many ways, it was my only hope. Fortunately, my husband was willing to make the sacrifice to save me. We found a cheap manufactured home on an acre and a half within walking distance of two canyons and short driving distance of one of the most open desert spaces in Utah. Life is returning, both my outdoors life and my writing life.

The toll those years of confinement took still weighs heavily. But I'm recouping some losses, and I no longer experience that profound sorrow. It didn't all come rushing back, either -- even when I had what I was in want of.

It took a while to work it all out, Jim. It took years. In some ways, like you, I'll probably be working it all out to the end of my days.

My main point: I gave up my life, then found it again. Am finding it again. I thought my desert days were over. Turned out they weren't. But I had to make a long, long journey to get back and touch the ground that gives me strength. When I started out on that journey, I hadn't a clue where it would take me. It was the longest leap of faith I've ever made. I thought it might kill me.

But it didn't. And even though I'm "home," figuratively speaking, I'm still re-learning day by day how to live my life. Living life in a cage takes something out of you. I know it does. A certain amount of wear and tear occurs as the years pass.

Yet here I am, and here the desert is, and we're remembering each other.

Jim Cobabe said...


It makes me happy to know that I have put my finger on something elusive that poses a challenge for us both. This too will pass...

We struggle onward, despite the opposition and pain, the sweat and blood and anguished tears.

When the last energy seems spent, hope springs up like a hidden spring flowing through a deep grotto in the desert. We just need to press on, and keep our eyes open, watching for signs. Eventually, it will come. Perhaps it will be long in coming, but in the end, it will be worth it.