Travel Into Places Familiar and Unfamiliar

Yesterday, the girls and I left Vermont – currently a giant slew of ice and running water –and drove over the Connecticut River into New Hampshire’s White Mountains, an ancient granite range. At the crest of the Notch, I stepped out in the blowing snow and snapped a photo, the temperature not much above zero. In the backseat, the little girl pressed against her teddy bear. I drove down the steep switchbacks, listening to music, the girls quiet, while the temperature soared and the snow that shrouded the pass lifting and disappearing.

For years, I’ve impressed on my daughters to make a mental map of their world as they go. Memorize road signs; note the position of the sun, rivers, cairns; remember your turns. And yet, more than our perceptions of places falter. A few years ago, with our daughters, my husband and I returned to the mountainside  where we had married. We hiked up this once-familiar area and could not find the field of our wedding. The mountainside, a former ski area, had not been mowed for years, and the field had been reclaimed by scrubby thickets. In the end, we found what we were seeking, completely altered but for the shape of the earth: a flat knoll and a once-upon-a-time drop off now concealed by emerging birch.

These ancient mountains are all of this: familiar to me through swimming and river rock collecting and backpacking into the peaks, and so infinitely mysterious, ever-changing, miraculously beautiful. And, this morning, sunny.

….to see beyond boundaries to the subtle heart of things, dispense with names, with concepts, with expectations and ambitions and differences. Tao and its many manifestations arise from the same source: subtle wonder within mysterious darkness. This is the beginning of all understanding.

Lao Tzu (c.604 – 531 B.C.)

Franconia Notch, New Hampshire