Last Friday, my husband and I returned to the sacred land of our childhood – the glorious Adirondack Mountains of Upstate, NY. Neither of us had been born there, but we spent time there as children. As for myself, my family seemed to travel there just about every weekend in the summers. Most often, we swam in Old Forge or Inlet. Sometimes we would hike near Raquette Lake, Long Lake, Blue Mountain Lake. Sometimes we climbed little mountains. And sometimes, those rare, special times, we would take trips into the land of the high peaks – Saranac Lake and Lake Placid. We only swam and took short walks, but always in the gaze of the taller mountains.
The day was cool and sunny, just as we had hoped. A light pack ready to go, we made our way to the wild heart of NY State. Along the way, we listened to the most recent Druidcast which featured some of the speeches given at OBOD’s 50th celebration. Even though I’m not involved with that tradition, the message was perfect for the trip. As the high peaks began to appear, like whale fins cresting in a rolling green ocean, I felt my Druid spirit rejoice. Caitlín Matthews’ words from her speech, “Authenticity and Authority in Druidry” thundered in my heart – “I don’t call myself a Druid, I AM a Druid.” One of the many reasons I feel that way is because of the time I spent in the Adirondacks as a child. It was where I first started to rejoice in Mother Earth’s majesty, and where I truly fell in love with, and understood the power of conservation. In my humble opinion, Druidism is only partially about culture. The other part is adoring and revering the natural world. The Adirondack helped me see that at an early age. Now I was initiating my daughter.
We planned to climb Mt. Jo, one of the smaller mountains in Lake Placid. With an elevation of 2876′, it would be the tallest mountain I’ve climbed to date. Others described it as suitable for a family hike with small children. I’m not sure they had one-year-olds in mind, but we managed through teamwork, frequent stops, a decent carrier, and sheer stubbornness. There are two trails – short and long – the former being more difficult. We opted for the longer trail, which was rocky and difficult enough. I can’t imagine the shorter trail with a baby.
The trek was worth it, however. When we reached the top (which meant passing the baby back and forth as we scrambled up some steep, rocky ledges), we felt amazing. Even the most beautiful photographs don’t quite capture the size and majesty of the surrounding landscape. It was like a Thomas Cole painting spilling over its canvas. In some directions, the Earth Mother seemed to crouch, all elbows and knees. Turn your head just so, and she appeared to relax, her breasts ample mounds at rest. Above, the Sky Father’s bright eye looked out at her beauty from behind his lacy curtains. A troop of iridescent dragonflies danced in her breath.
It seemed out of a folk tale; there were gurus at the top. A young woman sat with a book, her employment to sit on the mountain for hours to guide visitors. She helped us identify the nearby High Peaks. A bearded gentleman sat, seemingly meditating. His wife crouched with her loyal canine friend near the trees. She spoke to us about how beautiful it was that we persevered with our child up the mountain, about how we were giving her a gift. She reminisced about the times she brought her now grown children up mountains, seeming to get a little choked up. It was moving, and made our effort seem all the more significant, all the more part of a spiritual tradition. As we approached the top, we had thought, “Surely, we are crazy to bring a baby…,” yet she validated our calling to the mountain. Yes, we were but three small creatures clambering over the Earth Mother’s elevated beauty, but doing so grounded us in her sacred mystery and reminded us of what it truly is to live.
Before beginning our descent, I put my hands on Mt. Jo’s rock. It was toasty hot. I let that warmth rise into my arms. As I did so, I was aware of the sun above me, the Earth and trees about me, the nearby lake shimmering just beyond our view… Visitors to the Adirondacks are asked not to take anything nor leave anything as part of their conservation efforts. I felt that an offering had to be made, but I’m a modern Druid and respect modern conservation (an offering in and of itself). I left my gratitude. I poured it into that mountain and sealed it with a kiss. I look forward to returning with Bee when she’s older, and I can’t wait to climb more mountains…