Lone Mountain

There stood in the middle of a low valley a tall and noble mountain. This was a rogue mountain not part of any range or mountainous region. Its base was surrounded by rolling hills of sweet grass, its slopes were adorned by tall fir trees, its great icy tip pierced the heavens themselves.

From the valley Nin travelled through the green fields of the hills, then began a leisurely ascent up the side of the mountain. It was a clear morning and the sun rose with him as he climbed.

He breathed in the clear mountain air, he smelled the fresh mountain pine. He let his muscles work, he felt the sinew in his legs stretch with every kick and leap. It was good, wholesome exercise. He hadn’t played like this since he was young, since that day in the fog with the foxes.

Perhaps all he ever sought was to recapture his childhood, the innocence he’d known back then. The ease and self-assurance of youth.

But nonetheless—there was an unease in his stomach as he climbed, as he scrambled over rocks and the roots of trees, through the brush, even onward, ever upwards. It was not a specific fear or anxiety he felt, merely the absence of peace.

He stopped halfway up to catch his breath. As he surveyed the surrounds he could not help but express his admiration for the mountain air and the mountain soil. “A beautiful mountain it is,” he said. “A very good mountain.”

Hearing his words the spirit of the mountain stirred. It spoke to Nin and its voice swayed the pines. “Rest here if it pleases you to,” it said. “You’ve climbed other mountains and have reached their summits. There is no reason to climb this one as well.”

“No I suppose there isn’t,” said Nin.

“And weren’t you disappointed with each summit? What was there but the sight of more mountains and above them, a sky you could not reach?”

“I still intend to climb,” said Nin.

“Oh, won’t you build a monastery on my steeps, and make a godly home here? The air is clear, the land is good, here you could be happy,” said the mountain. “Remain and be happy. I will be good to you.”

“A monastery?” Nin was intrigued by the idea.

“Yes, become the sage of the mountain. From miles around young rabbits will flock to you. Regale them with tales of your exploits and adventures, let them take wisdom from your wanderings. Let them eat the fruit of the tree of your knowledge.”

“And spend the rest of my days here?” asked Nin.

“The rest of your days and more. Be buried here, let your bones become part of the soil and nurture the earth for the next generation. Who are you to hope for more? Who are you to wish for more than a good life? What arrogance! What pride!”

Nin started up. “I must be going,” he said quickly.

“Why?” asked the mountain.

Nin meditated for a moment. “Because I am a seeker,” he said. “What you say is true, the summit is unlikely to hold the answers I seek.” He stood to leave. “But the view will be lovely, and the ascent has reminded me of many important things.”

As he began his climb again, the mountain shook with anger: “Go on then, seeker, continue seeking forever! Seeker, never a finder! That is your cursed fate!” And the good earth upon which Nin had briefly considered building a monastery was shaken free. The loose soil crumbled and rolled down the slope and was lost.

Nin beat a hasty retreat down the mountainside. Around him the mountain roared. “Mara! Entrap this foolish arrogant rabbit!” cried the mountain. Trees were ripped from their roots, the earth grew cold. “Mara, my master, make him stay!”

When he reached the rolling knolls of the foothills, as the sweet perfumed air of the lowland filled his nose and his lungs, he heard faintly, carried by the wind, the last desperate cries of that lone mountain: “Please,” it called, “come back, I’m sorry. I’m so alone. Don’t leave me here alone!”