Key Pen and Ink


Cathy Warner

Live Like the Mountain Is Out

I received a mug emblazoned with the words “Live Like the Mountain Is Out” and an outline of Mt. Rainier a few months ago. I filled it with tea and looked out at the rain.

It rained, grayed and drizzled the first six weeks I lived in Washington, and the morning the sun broke free, I was on a ferry from Bainbridge Island to Seattle. When the boat turned out of Eagle Harbor, a massive, snow-covered mountain seemed to rise from the waters of the Sound itself, growing larger and dominating the horizon until it disappeared behind West Seattle.

I had no idea what mountain I’d seen, but seeing it filled me with reverence for that looming majesty and left me wanting another glimpse as I trudged uphill to Seattle University.

Author David Guterson (“Snow Falling on Cedars”) began his presentation with something like, “Wasn’t our mountain beautiful from the ferry this morning?” If a lifelong resident was impressed, it was, indeed, something special.

It didn’t take long to discover that “our mountain” is Rainier and in my six years in Washington, I’ve delighted in glimpses of it again, along with the Olympics and Cascades, which do their share of hiding, too.

The day my husband and I moved to our home near the Purdy Spit in July 2015 and discovered that Mt. Rainier—which was visible from our 4-foot-high office window—glowed pink at sunset with reflected light, we did what anyone would do when confronted with such a spectacle: We climbed onto the roof and gazed until the mountain faded from sight.

We climbed out again and again that summer and fall, luring guests through our narrow window with sunset cocktails. The mountain made our contortions worthwhile, but when spring came, we installed a sliding door and rooftop deck.

Most stunning is the view from my bed before sunrise, as I wake to find Rainier back-lit in sharp relief behind the trees that obscure its presence in full sun. Slowly the glaciers and striations color then fade and shadows recede as nautical twilight gives way to civil twilight and the sun finally rises—sometimes straight into clouds.

Just what does it mean to “Live Like the Mountain Is Out?”

I’m in a better mood when I rouse to Rainier instead of my alarm, so does it mean smile and be happy, generous and expansive?

Does it mean drop everything, chores and work alike, and run (or climb) outside to gaze in wonder?

Does it mean live big and bold, calling attention to our presence—the way we can’t help but gasp when Rainier looms into view from that particular crest on Highway 16?

Does it mean set our sights on the horizon, the big picture, and ignore the little things? Or does it mean pay close attention to everything large and small, finding inherent beauty?

Does it mean we shouldn’t take for granted what appears permanent and immovable (a 14,411-foot mountain, for example), that we should offer appreciation and thanks for those solid and sturdy people and circumstances in our lives since even the everlasting can be fleeting, there but unseen?

Perhaps “live like the mountain is out” means all of this and more. What does it mean to you? Let’s fill our mugs and ponder.

Cathy Warner keeps her mug in Wauna.