Friday, July 11, 2008

The View From Mountain House

In real estate the agents say that what counts is “location, location, location”. Sometimes that may be true for our understandings of the world as well. Our location can frame the path of our reflections. Consider walking along an ocean beach or setting in a mountain meadow. For many of us that context can lead to deeper, more inwardly centered, perceptions or, in a similarly restorative way, to looser flows of mental associations that lead us to more fundamental and lasting impressions of what is.

Mountain House in Caux, Switzerland, is such an influencing location. It is where the Caux Round Table started in 1986 and where, much earlier, retreats hosted in the Belle Epoch hotel perched high above Lake Laman (or to some, Lake Geneva) brought about new levels of acceptance between French and Germans, paving the way to a united Europe.

I was just there with some CRT colleagues in a retreat for scholars on Tuesday and Wednesday. They left on Wednesday night or early Thursday morning and I stayed on for a day before going to Warsaw. Thursday was a beautiful day – blue skies, a few touches of clean white clouds, warm sun- but not hot, breezes. And the view from the patio at Mountain House was magnificent; not so spectacular that you forgot yourself, but great (“magnus”) in vistas of high Alpine mountains, towns along the lake shore, the blue of the lake, and in clarity of light and perception.

And the sounds were of birds and the breezes in the leaves.

The hustle and bustle of humanity, the nitty-gritty, the details that provide cover and sustenance for the devils in our lives, were far away from consciousness. One felt a kind of open-ended, natural superiority in life. You could breathe in encouragement and breathe out doubts and anxieties, just as masters of meditation advise for our better health and well-being.

The view from Mountain House on such a day provides scope for our proper ambitions, making us once again masters of our fates and captains of our souls in a world that is conspiring to reduce us to trivia.

The view took me back to Robert Frost’s poem “Birches” which ends thusly:

Earth's the right place for love:
I don't know where it's likely to go better.
I'd like to go by climbing a birch tree~
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.

1 comment:

KellyGordian said...

Your piece reminds me of the time I was in Austria. While in Salzburg one night, I was walking toward an underground wine cellar and was awed by blanket of stars above. There were no
skyscrapers or buildings to obstruct my view, and I wanted to lie on the grass and stare at the sky all night long. I felt hopeful, like there was more than just me and my little world to think about. Even though it was very quiet, I could suddenly hear everything around me very clearly. It was as if I could "hear" what nighttime sounds like. I felt peaceful, content, and wistful.