Hemmed by Hills

I grew up hemmed in by hills and have lived among them always. I feel safest in them, sitting at their valley feet, breathing in their grey air. I feel small inside of them, aware of majesty, struck by insignificance, brought low by awe.

These are not white capped mountains, these are the simple rolling arcs of the Appalachias, The Blue Mountain Range, The Smokey Range, the Adirondacks—these are the mountains that are laid low, and lowered by time. They are old mountains. Whenever I am tempted to think of the small mountains as young ones, I remember instead that it is the peaked, white ones that are still in their formative years. No, these mountains, the hills of my life, they are old, grandfathered in, green and lush, mature.

When my family was still whole and together, we climbed one of these mountains and I stood out on a rock near the edge, beneath me a patchwork of farms, the hills of Bucks County. Not too close to the edge, my dad said, but I hardly heard him. I was small, but I remember that moment clearly. I breathed deep and was so tall, hulking over the miniature barns and greens. I breathed and was so small, a tiny person on a rock jut at the top of a mountain, a speck to any one of the farmers, if that.

Someone told a story after that, about how a friend had gotten caught in a storm up on this mountain, slept under a rock until the forest rangers found them. I imagined that was me as I hiked down the mountain, spying for rocks that would suffice as cover, looking up at the sky, willing it to rain.

I felt safe on that mountain, standing on that rock jut, willing it to rain. I felt safer then than I have felt much of my life since then.

Now I am always looking for mountains.

Point Mountain, Bucks County, Pennsylvania