It was here, on Hurricane Ridge in Washington, that I realized how much I desperately needed the mountains. They hold a serene and peaceful calm that engulfs me, strengthening and nourishing my soul. Just as I take in the stress and chaos of my everyday life, I also learned to let it go and allow the mountains to absorb and release them. It is there, immersing myself in the landscape, that I can close my eyes and breath a deep sigh, letting all the stress of life float away and giving me the opportunity to recharge my spirit and my faith in the world around me. It is in this place that I hear the echoes of nature calling out to the world to pay attention, to acknowledge and respect the amazing diversity this world has to offer. It urges me to embrace my uniqueness and experience life at its fullest because, as they say, we only live once.
The Ko’olau Mountains of Hawaii are very different from Washington, but are equally as majestic. I was very fortunate to have been raised in Hawaii on the island of Oahu and was, for the most part, living on the windward side where life was almost timeless. Living on a beautiful tropical island was an altogether different experience that offered a mix of a ‘no worries’ attitude that contrasted greatly with their strong passion for heritage and ohana. The foundation of a community of “family” gave me the foundation I stand on today.
As a child I would hike the mountain ridge behind my home with friends after the daily rain showers that seemed to be the only thing that ran on time on this tiny island. It seemed to know that 3pm, when I was walking home from my bus stop, was the perfect time to let loose and would create beautiful flowing water falls down the middle of the mountains. After an hour or so, we would hike the mountain ridge and slide down the mud slides where the waterfall had traveled. They always led to the same stream that ran behind my house, so we never came home dirty. We were washed clean by the time we drifted home! I realize now how different my childhood was from the childhoods of other around me and wonder if that is why being in the mountains, surrounded by nature and exploring the wonders the Earth provides, is the only place I feel free.
There is a breathtaking beauty to the place I still call home even after more than twenty years, but just as love has many facets, so too is the feeling of peace and tranquility with the Earth wherever I leave a part of myself. A rolling cascade of snow-capped ridges that stretch across the horizon, the wildflowers that grow along the rolling landscape, the lush forest of trees that reach to the stars and live longer than any other organism on this planet… All these characteristics, as in humans, hold a special tranquility that allows me to reflect on life and the vitality of my spirit.
Today I live far from the mountains and far from the tiny tropical island I still call home. In the end, family led me to where I planted my roots on the shores of Florida. I am and always will be close to water and close to family, the ocean holds a special cleansing quality and a calming rhythm as reliable as the beating of my heart.
But my heart is one of a mountain girl and something in my soul calls me to trek these mountains, to stand tall with my ‘no worries’ attitude and call to the winds, if not only for a single moment in time. The beauty lies in the truth that the mountains seem to listen, releasing me from the weight of the world I carry on my shoulders, allowing me to recharge my spirit and strengthen my resolve so I can continue to challenge the world we live in today and make it a better place one step at a time, one person at a time. And if I cannot accomplish this, at least I can say I am changing myself for the better.