I am on day five of a six-day backpack in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains. So aptly named. So many jagged teeth-like formations line the ridge tops like crazy smile patterns. I have backpacked countless miles and in many different locales. This is my first backpack in Idaho. To me these mountains embody the quality of air in an over-arching way.
Jagged ridges, white, golden, and red rock live intimately with white pines, sub-alpine firs, ponderosa pines and whitebark pines. Creeks flow through the same golden and white rock dancing and swirling around them. The air is dry and the altitude is between seven and ten thousand feet. The feel is lofty. Majestic and open.
In Chinese Five Element Theory the five elements in the universe are wood, fire, earth. metal and water. Most indigenous systems have four elements: fire, earth, water and air. Metal can be thought of as mineral. To me, wood and metal are a sort of complex delineation of the air quality that is present in so many other indigenous systems.
The jagged Sawtooths cut through the air with clarity and deep presence. The stark skeletons of alpine firs that have been struck by lightning spiral their branches into dancing shapes in the moon light. It is as if the spirit of the tree lives on in the skeleton providing high airy perches for the many birds who fly from one branch to the next.
Large granite slabs of white and golden rock make a commanding presence against the blue sky. Trees grow out of the cracks in the rock extending their roots every which way. The rock shapes the tree and the tree shapes the rock.
As I write this I am sitting at the edge of Redfish Creek lined with large granite rocks streaked with black lichen. The water is flowing and cascading over and through golden/white rocks speckled with the same black lichen. I am surrounded by jagged peaks arising into the air all around me.
With gratitude in my heart, I soak in these airy majestic mountains and all the life they support. I take their gift of clarity, presence, beauty and balance with me.