We’ve just spent two lovely weeks exploring the southern Alps in France. It has felt like a real treat to have the beautiful, honeypot towns almost to ourselves, the eerie off-season emptiness only adding to the mystery and romance of the narrow, cobbled streets. We’ve enjoyed the bright blue winter clarity that still lingers in the air, even as the spring flowers push through, and there have even been a few sun-trap moments of t-shirts and flip-flops amidst wrapping up against the otherwise bracing, fresh mountain air.
Throughout it all, we’ve been cradled by the majestic mountains and I have watched them and walked them with awe and respect. Their unwavering stillness inspires me and I feel they teach me deep lessons. I appreciate their calm presence amidst ever-shifting weather, where gifts of sublime beauty chase threatening storms from the sky in an endless game of inevitable change and play. It teaches me to stay calm amidst the flurries of my own mind-sky, to weather the storms and embrace the sun’s kiss when it shines on me. The mountains don’t care what the weather is like, they remain the same throughout – it is only our perceptions of them that shift. In as much time it takes for the sun to go behind a cloud they can turn in our mind from benign and beautiful to threatening and gloomy.
I feel their wisdom and their solidity strongly. Yet, their own transience is visible too. This area is a geological reserve and I see the movement and strain they have faced through the millenia in tortured and twisted stripes of strata. It shows me that everything is temporary, even the things that appear so solid and immovable. Even the mountains shift and change in their own time, their own natural pulsing rhythm of give and take, against which our human history is almost a subliminal blip of brevity. Life is spirals and cycles and movement. Nothing stays the same. All we can do is be like the mountains and stay calm and grounded as the changes happen around and within us.
I saw and noted down this Aristotle quote in a geology museum in a town aptly called Apt the other day (!) – it seemed to sum up my thoughts perfectly, especially in the beautiful French language:
“L’univers est eternal,
Les mondes naissent at meurent,
La mer avance et recule,
Ce qui est la terre peut devenir la mer,
Tout change tout le temps…”
Which I’ve roughly translated with my dodgy French into:
The universe is eternal,
Worlds are born and die,
The sea advances and recedes,
That which is the earth can become the sea,
Everything changes all the time.