Carolyn’s Online Magazine
THE SURPRISING THING ABOUT
Question: What is the most surprising thing about mountaintop experiences?
Answer: They apparently aren’t important.
Let me explain.
In my novel-under-construction, She Saw Her Promised Land (formerly titled Intertwined Love) I had to write a mountain-climbing experience by a female French land speculator.
Rosalie de Leval arrived in the United States in 1791, taking refuge from the French Revolution. Within two months she had a tentative contract to purchase 22,000 acres of land in the Massachusetts Territory of Maine, today the state of Maine. The land was located in Hancock and Washington counties.
However, she’d learned from thousands of her homeland’s citizens who held non-valid deeds to Scioto lands in Ohio, purchased sight unseen. She demanded to see the land before she purchased it.
After sailing from Boston to Frenchman bay in sloop she had the opportunity to climb Schoodic Mountain, from which she could see a vast distance that included the land she was interested in purchasing. I wanted to write about her “mountaintop experience.”
I felt I could enhance my writing by reading about mountaintop experiences. I surfed the I’net for pertinent sites. I typed in mountaintop experiences.
Virtually all sites that turned up were religious based—religious mountaintop experiences. Not what I needed.
I added the words mountain climbers to mountaintop experiences.
There were no sites that listed experiences, perhaps spiritual in nature, of mountain climbers who struggled to reach the mountaintop. Oh, those who climb Mt. Katahdin in Maine may pause to be photographed at the sign, as evidence they succeeded in their climb. However, once a climber reaches the top s/he might pause to eat a snack, but then they immediately begin their descent.
That mountaintop experiences don’t exist was confirmed when I spoke to a couple of persons who succeeded in climbing major mountains. A mountain climber’s interest is in the ascent and descent.
So how could I give Rosalie a mountaintop experience?
Rosalie’s Schoodic Mountain climb differed from the typical mountain climber.
First, this was probably the first mountain she ever climbed. Second, her interest in climbing the mountain wasn’t the ascending and descending: it was to see her promised land.
After lots of thought and some research I believe I gave Rosalie a true mountaintop experience. I combined it with the flight of the bald eagle and Indian lore (the guide with the group she was with was a Native American).
I’ve typed in an excerpt from my novel-under-construction:
Where I stand is so unlike the Alps. It is almost flat enough to be a table top—it is far less dangerous than the steep path I just climbed.
Rosalie began to walk slowly around the summit. The others stood back, not wanting to interrupt her mountain top experience.
Her pleasure warmed her enough that she didn’t notice the nippy summit wind that blew her shawl off her shoulder. In the distance were the Mt. Desert Island mountains that had grabbed her attention when she first sailed into the Narrows, and continued to grab her heart while her sloop was anchored in Union Bay.
She paused to watch a pair of soaring bald eagles, their outstretched wings enhanced by their white-capped heads. They swirled and swooped through the air, flying high above her and low below her.
What majesty I see in their flight
As her eyes followed the bald eagles’ descent to the water below a strange feeling came over her, a feeling she had never before experienced—a sense of belonging, of connectedness with this mountain, with all the land before her, with the world—the whole world. A now familiar high pitch from one of the eagles seemed to wed her to this place.
Yet she also felt remote from it and an unspeakable sense of being one with Heaven.
The feeling only lasted a brief moment.
I wish I could hold that moment as long as possible.
Monsieur, Gen. Jackson, and the guide, now stood beside her. The guide sensed her spirit dancing around her.
“You have climbed this mountain. Doing so enabled you to receive its good tidings—you feel in harmony with nature,” he said, knowing Madame was searching for something. “If you stand back, nature’s peace will flow into you, much like the sunshine and wind flow into the trees. Receive this gift and your cares will drop away from you like autumn leaves fall off trees. The mountain has its truth, but it will not reveal it to you. It will only encourage something to grow inside you, something unexplainable.”
Rosalie began to slowly walk around the summit’s perimeter while the three men and the guide stood back. Peace enveloped her as she soaked up the vistas, the sun, and the wind.
In the past, mountains were holy objects…People would bless them and pray to them…no wonder… (end of excerpt)
As Rosalie descended the mountain she took her hopes and dreams with her into the valley. Little did she know how devastating that valley would become as she struggled unsuccessfully to get the deed to her land first from Gen. Henry Knox and William Duer, then from William Bingham. After all, how could she begin to build her community for French refugees without that deed?
The other day a friend shared what she considered her life’s mountaintop experiences. We all have them, and for brief moments share the euphoria that Rosalie and my friend shared. However, we live most of our lives in the valley, most of the time a little higher up with the routines of life, and occasionally deep in the valley where hopelessness and grief set in.
If I were to ask you what your mountaintop experiences were, could you answer? Have you had any such experience? If so, I invite you to share the experience in the comment box at the end of this article.