Eyes Wide Open
I once spent a winter living in a cabin in Colorado next to a colossal mountain known as Quandary Peak. When I first moved in, I’d wake up early each morning to revive a dying fire in the woodstove and stand beside the floor-to-ceiling windows in the living room, staring in awe at its summit, 14,265 feet in the air. “Good morning, beautiful mountain” I’d think (or say aloud when my housemates weren’t around). As someone who grew up in the mostly flat piedmont of central North Carolina, the fact that I lived next to a gigantic, snowy mountain blew my mind. This wasn’t a dream or a vacation, it was my life.
I lived a relatively “normal” existence in the shadow of Quandary that winter – working in town at the ski resort during the day, and making dinner, hanging with friends, etc. at the cabin in the evening. The mountain was always there, looming over us, offering inspiration and humility. Its magnificence never lessened, but I found myself looking past it as weeks rolled on. Mornings became a little more hurried as I dug my car out of the previous night’s snow and rushed to work. There was less time for standing by the window to greet Quandary and the day. Instead, the mountain was something that faded out of sight in my rear view mirror as I drove to town.
In late April, winter’s grip finally began to ease, and I found myself spending more time outside on the front porch of the cabin. On one uncharacteristically warm day, I swung in my hammock and looked upward toward the mountain. The view was a bit different than the one I’d become accustomed to. Instead of snow, the trees were filled with neon greens of new growth. Quandary’s summit was no longer concealed by heavy clouds; it was, instead, highlighted by a backdrop of electric blue. I realized in that moment that I’d spent the past several months looking past this beacon of magnificence standing right in front of me. It wasn’t that I didn’t appreciate it; how could I not appreciate something so incredible? I just got busy. I was caught up in my daily routine – wake up, shovel snow, drive to work. I forgot to make time for the mountain. Rather, I forgot to make time for myself to enjoy the mountain.
To an extent, I feel like this happens to everyone. It’s so easy to become a slave to a schedule – to forget to look around every once in awhile – or even to convince yourself that the grass is greener elsewhere. Maybe it’s a 14,000 ft. mountain, or a sunset, or a colorful piece of graffiti under a bridge somewhere. Perhaps it’s a rainy day, a song you love on the radio, or your children dancing around the kitchen while you make dinner. The point is: beauty is everywhere. It’s right in front of you.
This time of year, especially, I find myself longing for bright summer days. “The mountains are so brown right now. It’s dark outside. I’m cold. I can’t wait for long days and green leaves on the trees.” Last weekend I went for a bike ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I climbed and climbed and climbed, eventually reaching an overlook on the side of the road. I could see for what seemed like (and probably was) hundreds of miles. The mountains faded from brown to blue under the winter sun’s rays, and wispy clouds lazily floated through the sky. Right then and there, I realized that my view would be very different if there were leaves on the trees in front of me. In fact, I probably wouldn’t have had much of a view at all. I hopped back on my bike and rode away, eyes (and heart) wide open.