The Matterhorn made me cry. You read that right, The Matterhorn, a 14,000 foot tall mountain in the Swiss Alps, brought me to tears today.
We took the funicular train from Zermatt up to Sunnegga, which is supposed to be a great place to view the Matterhorn as well as be somewhat kid friendly with a playground and lake for swimming. We walked off the train, down and around a bend in the dirt and gravel trail, and there she was, in all of her iconic beauty. I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, surrounded by stunning landscapes and gorgeous mountains, but this, the Matterhorn standing right in front of me, I’ve never seen anything like it.
I knew I needed to take a moment to process my thoughts and figure out why the sight of this mountain was suddenly making me so emotional, but Izzy and Hudson were anxious to get down to the water we had promised them, so, I held it in and we hiked down the side of the mountain we were standing on in order to find the swimming hole. One hour -and no less than twelve “Mom, I’m hungry and Mom, it’s too hot!” - we decide we’d had enough of Sunnegga and it was time to get a snack back at the top of the mountain. (For any of you non-parents out there, this equates to anywhere between 5-55 minutes typically, depending on the mood of your child/children.)
We started hiking back up the hill and made it to the little gondola looking ride which would take us up to the restaurant, and as I stood looking out the giant picture window, I could feel myself starting to flood with emotion. I bit my lip, took a couple of deep breaths and willed myself to keep it together. The kids started fighting, Adeline started fidgeting in my arms and at that point I knew I was going to have myself a cry.
We made it to the top and I handed Adeline off to Kasey so they could all get lunch and I could take a minute with the mountain. I walked down the hill a little ways and sat on this grassy patch with the Matterhorn directly in front of me and the tears started streaming down my face. I thought of the men and women who had sat in the exact same spot, taking in the sight of this magnificent mountain in front of me, looking at this thing and routing out their plan to climb it, to conquer it, and with it a piece of themselves. I could feel the pull of the mountain, the allure, the draw of wanting to feel a part of it. Whatever it is that you’re drawn to, when you have this sense of adventure inside of you, it’s impossible to ignore, to pretend it doesn’t exists or that you can continue on in life without the sense of pride that comes with conquering these feats. Not everybody understands. I understand. I might not personally feel the intense desire to summit Matterhorn, but I understand those who do. I understand the feeling of needing to live out your passions, of understand the risks involved, but that it would be scarier to die without ever having lived, than to die doing something that brought joy to your life.
One of my favorite quotes is “It’s not the years in your life, but the life in your years that matters.” I think about this quote all the time. I think about my own mortality, but I don’t necessarily worry about it, instead I worry about wasting my life. I worry about looking back and wishing I had done something, or taken more opportunities. I’ll only die once, but I get to live everyday.
Sitting at the base of the Matterhorn, I paid my respects to the men and women who understood the risks, took them anyways and didn’t make it home to tell their story. We had walked through the cemetery in town only hours earlier and seen the headstones, and the names of those who didn’t make it back. All bearing their names and dates, some marked with the exact location they were killed at, which somehow made it that much more real that they were a son, a husband, a daughter, a sister, and that they wouldn’t ever be coming back. The mountain had claimed them. It was impossible to not think of Brian. How he just wanted to enjoy life, he wanted to truly live it, to enjoy these experiences, push himself and prove to himself that he could do it. I know these men and women who didn’t make it back from this mountain felt that same feeling inside of them. There was something telling them to push themselves, to go for it, to live a life with no regrets, and even in death have inspired others to do the same.
Sitting at the base of this mountain, it’s impossible to ignore how insanely beautiful it is, but how little it makes you feel. How you can be literally on top of the world, but feel so absolutely small. Looking at this mountain does not make me want to climb it, but it does make me want to conquer other things. It makes me want to support and encourage those around me to pursue their passions, to chase after their dreams, to climb mountains like these, figuratively and literally, and it makes me want to push myself to continue to do the same. Sitting at the base of this mountain changed me. It’s encouraged and inspired me and I know regardless of the obstacles and challenges in front of me, I will keep climbing and I will make it to the top.