On a recent morning, from a bus on an elevated highway, I watched a formation of wild geese against the sky before they slanted downward toward a feeding opportunity. I remembered a song I had heard when I was 10 or 11 years old. I had transitioned from an urban life to a small ranch in northwestern California surrounded by nature. I heard on the radio: “My heart knows what the wild goose knows, and I must go where the wild goose goes.” What a thought! “Wild goose, brother goose, which is best, a wand’rin foot or a heart at rest? “ A cry for freedom and kinship with the wild world of nature beyond the constraints of conventional society. Living in my new natural surroundings, the song struck a chord and has stuck with me ever since.
Later, working at a Scout camp in the Sierra before the ninth grade, radio stations began playing another song: “And the wayward wind is a restless wind–a restless wind that yearns to wander.” For years, from home on clear days I had gazed at the 12-and 13,000-foot peaks of the Great Western Divide and the Kaweah Peaks beyond. I could picture the free mountain wind curling around those same peaks, where I was to join a camping trip later in the summer. “And he was born the next of kin–the next of kin to the wayward wind.” Could Gogi Grant be singing about me? Was it possible that I could become one with the wild essence of the wind and mountains?
On that trip I learned that I was in fact made for the mountains.
Since then, I have been blessed to spend many months backpacking and climbing among the high peaks with kindred souls. For a few years I lived and worked year-round at a small ski touring center and summer camp with a view of those peaks. Though my hips keep me from long backpack trips now, every summer I car-camp in the Eastern Sierra or stay in the Tuolumne Meadows Campground and take scenic day hikes–the higher the better.
I have come to know the truth of those songs for me: because I have been made personally, at the deepest level of my existence, an integral part of God’s wonderful, beautiful world, I truly am brother to the wild goose and next of kin to that sweeping mountain wind. And I am so grateful.