Tolkien was drawn to the Swiss Alps. He came to the Lauterbrunnen area in the Bernese Oberland when he was only 19, and invented sketches for Lord of the Rings while there, exploring the flora and fauna of the waterfall-laden landscape. This could have been the inspiration for Eriador, Rivendell and Lothlórien … easy to believe that a writer could become both inspired and entranced by these mystical valleys and rugged mountains.
The Alps remind us of ourselves, both miniscule and massive. They rise in enormity and quietly exist. We’re small, at their base. We climb them, to gain a rich vantage, yet we’re still dwarfed in comparison. The mind, then, is what seems limitless.
We feel our lungs and the beat of the heart. “My heart like a kick drum …” as the Avett Brothers would say. I’m a walking chest, expanding with air, a balloon taking flight, and then the exhale, the slow stillness, grounding force, the feet connecting with the earth, soft yet substantial.
Green landscape of folded velvet dotted with constellations of wood chalet homes, a barn here and there.
Air, clean and sweet, smells of grass and waterfalls, dirt and rock. It fills the lungs and softly scrubs them from the inside.
Three seasons of the year in these valleys, constant bells tell us there are cows even if we don’t see them—that melodious tone that’s in deep consonance with the land. Resonant, ethereal chimes, as if they deliver the earth its own peace.
Cowbells have a constancy, yet they are arrhythmic, a subtle protest against the Swiss clockwork of the cities. It’s a mindful cue to ‘think less in ordinary time’ of lockstep and paced life, of hours and minutes, appointments and regularities. We don’t need to be expected anywhere. We need only to show up here; to be present with and for ourselves, connected to this land.
We turn back to the deeper body clock, the one that knows what time it is based on the sun and the way the shadows cut across the landscape. The body that senses what to wear based on how the breeze feels against the skin; pressure in the temples. The one that knows what to eat by how hungry we are and what we’re craving … craving something whole.
Yes, what does it take to be whole, beyond recognition that we are?
We are enough; this is a coming back to self, then, a deep joy in the completion.
The buzz of the bee; the sun against the leaves …
Notice, now, the way the stem alternates on this plant, in perpendicular extensions along its central axis. Try sketching it to show it alternates; there’s a line of symmetry, yet it’s different than we might have expected. Curiosity endures. Nature, once again, subtle in her marvels; marvelous with intention and precision. Form fits function—there’s more sun to be had this way, we can imagine.
We can learn a lot from being still, and noticing.
This is what the Alps teach, in their gentle way.
We return, being-less, just to be.
Caitlin Krause is a writer, educator, entrepreneur and presenter who works in interdisciplinary arenas connecting learning, mindfulness, leadership, technology, writing and immersive media. She is currently involved in 360 media and VR projects, incorporating this into her work with mindfulness and education. She founded the company MindWise in 2016.