“We’re connected to these people,” I tell Tough Cookie. “All of us, right here, connected to everybody who came before and everybody that will come tomorrow.”
We’re sitting atop Mt. Monadnock on Columbus Day weekend and the most popular mountain in North America is living up to its mythology. There must be two hundred people at or around the summit. Tourists. Boston day-trippers. Tons of kids. Some are freezing in the October wind. Some are miserable and complain loudly. Some are taking pictures of the glorious foliage.
Some, like myself and the girl, just lean back in the sun, sip tea and people watch.
Janelle gives me one of her looks that says she’s not quite dismissing me and my philosophical fancies, but I better back it up quick or she’s walking away.
“Here, look at this carving.” Someone in 1920 carved their name in the rock. Rock graffiti like this is all over Monadnock, some of it over a hundred years old. “This guy sat right here, right where we are, nearly a hundred years ago, and saw and felt the same things we are today.”
She runs her fingers over the date in the rock. “And maybe he brought his kids up, just like I brought you up,” I continue on a roll. “And maybe someday you’ll bring your kids up.”
She perks up. “And we’ll bring your new baby up too!”
“Exactly! The past, the now, the future, we’re all connected, through nature, through this mountain.”
We sit for a while longer, watching the people. I felt awful at first, when we popped out of tree line and saw the huge pack of humanity at the summit. But I feel better now. This is nice, all these people – some unprepared, yes – but still we’re all here on this brilliant fall day connected in our pursuit of something bigger than us. Connected by Monadnock.
“My aunt climbed this mountain,” Janelle says. “And her friend.”
And for the next half hour we eat our PB&Js and chocolate chip cookies and play a game where we list all the people we know who have climbed this mountain; it’s a long, long list.
“Everyone climbs Monadnock,” she finally says settling our conversation.
A hundred years ago, John Muir mused that “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity…”
I think Muir would appreciate the crowd at the top of Monadnock, and be amused to realize how connected to him we are as well.