The fog rolls heavy between the peaks, holding onto the last of their mantles of white. The rocky outcroppings shift and move, hiding within the mist. The mountains, ancient and wise from all they’ve watched, whisper to each other as a loon cries somewhere, hidden in curtains.
Hashem created the mountains and they whisper their secrets to Him.
For some reason, I have always loved the mountains most when they are peeking out at me from the fog. There is something mysterious and calming about the fog wrapping them, their rocky peaks playing hide and seek, softened by the haze. When I think of what the “clouds of glory” might have been, I imagine this fog, this morning, protectively hugging the mountains that look down on my home. When I think of tznius, again, I think of the mountains, modestly concealing their might in layers of soft mist.
There is something powerful in that which is hidden, something potent.
The mightiest mountain of North America, one of the highest peaks in the world itself, Denali, often hides herself in cloud cover. She influences all the weather around her and it’s estimated that only a quarter of visitors to Alaska ever see her, despite making the long trip to try. I’ve seen her fully visible, white with snow even in the middle of summer and jutting up into the sky even from miles and miles away. It’s a majestic site to be sure. The first time I saw her, though, she was cloaked and somehow the brief glimpses I was given were still awe inspiring. I had been driving through the night on my way to Fairbanks in the beginning of August, when Alaska begins to turn her face away from summer. Dawn came just as I entered Denali State Park, which hugs the National Park of the same name, in which Denali sits. Native Alaskans simply call her “The Mountain,” as if there need be no further explanation of which mountain you’re speaking of. Only one mountain deserves a “the” to them.
As the sun began to rose, I dipped down into the valley that curves around Denali, the road twisting and turning through canyons carved by small rivers with breathtaking views suddenly appearing from the fog only to disappear again. I caught glimpses here and there of The Mountain, only to lose them again in a way that made me wonder if I’d really seen what I thought I’d seen.
So it is with anything really holy, it seems. We catch glimpses, but they disappear into the mundane so quickly we begin to doubt what we saw. The fact that we can’t see it all, though, does help to inspire wonder.
I wondered at the size of The Mountain, her character, any number of things that would have simply been a mundane fact if I had seen her on a clear day. In the fog, she became a mystery too magnificent to be grasped, a mountain my imagination couldn’t yet contain. To me, in that fog, she became a glimpse of her Creator and His own mystery and majesty and, even though that was in my wandering phase, I still uttered a blessing. Even at my most distant from Hashem, His oneness has always been shown to me in nature and it’s just rude not to acknowledge such greatness. Nothing else could create such an amazing world or a Denali.
Today, though, it’s just the milder Chugach mountains that play hide and seek with me, but they remind me of that morning and that sudden swelling in my chest that pushed my lips to form words of a bracha even as I felt I was “taking a break” from Judaism. It was a reminder after a Shabbos spent sick with a stomach bug and then a hiking trip on Sunday missed that He is still there, hiding within His creation, waiting to be sought, waiting to connect with all of us.
Until then, I believe He listens to the mountains and their whispers, hoping our whispered prayers will again reach Him.