Jump to content, Jump to navigation.

Amber Paulen

In the Mountains

The summer after I turned nineteen I went on a trip through Europe that was extraordinary for a variety of reasons. As if driving through most of the continent in three weeks with an ex-boyfriend and his friend, sleeping every night in the car, was not enough, I decided that a hiking trip through the Swiss Alps would be fun. It is surreal to look back at that girl everyday covering ground and scaling height, alone in the Alps.

My penchant for solitude came early, from my books, from the fields and forest behind my house; as did my stubborn determinism that has proved necessary to my tough passion of writing. It was these two elements that fueled me up those mountains. I can clearly remember one afternoon above the tree-line, staring straight at a snow covered Mount Blanc. I remember how the wind whistled; there wasn’t a soul around but a couple goats with solemn bells that rang complacently when they bent to chew some stubble. The air was thin, the sky was grey and cloudy, the mountains peaked around me hard and rigid, some stones rose in piles of rubble.

I can clearly remember how the wind blew through me, thin girl, alone in the Alps, strangely without a single fear. I never thought that I could fall or get lost or that something terrible might happen to impede my safe return. It never bothered me that no one knew where I was exactly. I suppose I needed that like I always have, that great and sometimes lonely space. I don’t remember what I thought as I set one foot before the other, sometimes straining, climbing, descending. Maybe I just soaked up that place, as if I was there and wasn’t there at all.

I’m thinking about Mount Blanc because this weekend I saw it again from a different perspective. There’s the nearly twelve year age difference, sure, but more than that, I was on the French side, not the Swiss. It’s bulky form first revealed itself from between the green pine trees, above the wildflowers, their colors delicate and wistful stirring in the long grasses. It was jagged and proud and peaceful. But more than that was the nature of this trip: the conversation, the laughing, the delicious and well-earned barbeque, the drinks, the friends, flowing.

The sublimity of the moment is its briefness. The camera can catch a frame and sometimes a taste and if the photographer is lucky, the essence. It’s the essence I want: I steady and stir these memories.


·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·