The fascination of this place
is not about what there is
but about what is missing.

This is not a cliché.

October 2012

01 October 2012

Think like a mountain

My Mother is being attacked. It is the last Sunday in September. I am making my way up along the pleasant path in the woods – the one on the extreme north side of Col Alto. I have been going up for three quarters of an hour or so when I begin to see things which disturb me greatly. Nature is all around me. The roots of the giant majestic trees are spread wide and everything at first sight is tranquil and reassuring. Then, stepping away from the path and out of the wood I am met by the proud presence of the Sassongher but on this day my mountain friend seems particularly dark in the face as if livid with one or more things.
A comment made by a friend the other day stuck a chord with me. He said ‘You must think like a mountain’.
Then I begin to understand. My friend has seen all, has been a witness to the goings on of those less responsible tourists and is brimming over with anger and it is as if a storm will soon erupt so strong is the sense of wrath. Indeed to witness the violation of my Mother is not a pretty sight – paper handkerchiefs tossed to the ground, Fanta cans scattered around and even the odd leg or two of a doll abandoned without care or remorse. At times the sights are even worse – used nappies left to rot behind some innocent trunk or other savage traits of a human presence left to scar and lead us mountain folk to despair. Heavens above, why is it that some people approach the mountain excursion as if it is a playground to litter and deface?
Perhaps I am different. My ascents on Col Alto are moments of untold joy and simple reflection. Not for me the idle chattering on mobile phones and the attempt to impose my presence on Nature. From what I can see at times a few too many of us fail to understand that a mountain hike is a chance to be close to Mother Nature and to feed off her wisdom and teachings.
A comment made by a friend the other day stuck a chord with me. He said ‘You must think like a mountain’. This friend, Aldo Leopold, is the founder of the scientific environmental movement. What he meant was that we must slow down, give a sense of rhythm to time.
Do not get me wrong in all this? It is not as if I have got something against tourists in general. On the contrary I am the first to point out that if a certain cabin lift had not been constructed neither would there be that favourite path of mine which winds up the mountainside. And if that path were not there I would never have discovered the joys of Col Alto. Likewise the experience of discovering the mountains and learning to climb would not have been passed down over the generations if it had not been the first tourists to show us the way. In this context the mountain explorers had the utmost respect for Mother Nature and sought neither to exploit nor conquer but merely to understand and to be part of. And I will go further. It is thanks to tourists that we have developed and acquired status and wealth and opportunity and understanding so to collect the ‘left-behinds’ of a few is not beyond us and at times we go about our ‘collection duty’ with a smile behind the grimace – how can they be as they are to leave such stuff behind and without a care or a thought attached?
Our valleys are spectacular. In certain instances we could have done better with some of the developments and infrastructure we have imposed on our land but I guess we wanted certain things and any blame is only ours and ours alone. However let’s not fall into any emotional trap. The greatest challenge we now face is the dialogue we undertake between ourselves as fortunate dwellers in this paradise of lands. It is true that without the tourists we would not be in the fortunate position we now are but it is equally true that we have the type of tourists which we deserve – the buck stops with us! The responsibility is ours. The responsibility to explain our culture and our way and our ways of thinking is ours alone. The responsibility to encourage tourists to have a certain sense of responsibility towards Mother Nature is ours alone. To get them to ‘think like a mountain’ and to find the rhythm and the joy of time itself is a task we need to take on ourselves. Welcoming of tourists yes but also a willingness to share with them the concerns and aspirations we have. Not an anti lift construction stance at all but evaluation of their best use and development yes. Not anti car and motorbikes but against excessive noise and speeds along the Dolomite roads yes. And it is we ourselves in first person who must jump off the bandwagon of the carousel of development for development’s sake, turn away from a frantic destructive pattern of growth and rediscover a certain harmony and equilibrium, and nurture the power of decision so as to decide in what to invest and what to put to one side as being inconsistent with all that is inherently dear to us. A balanced interchange with tourists and an exchange of cultural appreciations will enable us to determine the best of ways to integrate new constructions into our Dolomite landscape and to render our homeland villages more ‘liveable in’ and less torn apart by threats of noise levels and pollution.
In essence we must search the Truth. The truth has never anything to hide and is always at ease with itself and this process of ‘harmony search’ requires us to involve as many participants as we can in the process of nurturing the community which is all ours for that is the way Mother Nature intended it. In the name of the giant majestic trees, in the name of the dark inspirational mountain, in the name of the woods which we cherish so much, and in the name of those to whom we owe so much, Let it Be so !