Ever since I moved to the suburbs west of Portland in the summer of 2011, there has always been one sight that stood out for me the most. On a clear day, you can see Mt. Hood from very near where I live.
That mountain, for some reason, always felt almost like a guardian angel. When I was working a very unrewarding job walking 6 miles a day and putting in about 45 hours a week (all told, about 10 hours of activity a day with few breaks), that mountain was there when the weather was clear to remind me that I had come here to be near beautiful sights like that. And strangely, the smoke from wild fires at the mountain’s base wafted my way late one hazy afternoon in the summer of 2011. I suddenly had a strange sense of Deja Vu that I long suspected was the start of my awareness of past lives. It was as if the smell of burning wood on an evening when the air was just so that called to mind my childhood, then a string of vaguely sensed past lives. Perhaps once, many long ages ago, I may have lived in the mountain’s shadow but sadly, I don’t remember.
The other day, it was the sight of Mt. Hood that pulled me out of some of the darkest depression I’ve experienced in many years. I saw it there, peeking over a shopping center, jutting into the clear blue sky, and I remembered why I came here, and why suicide would only bring regret. I realized that if I killed myself, I might remember that mountain one day and spend the rest of my next life trying to find it, the way I wandered the English countryside like a restless ghost in the early 2000s looking for a village I didn’t know was even there. Then I thought of all the good things I still had- my fiance, my cat, the few friends I’ve made and the favorite spots I’ve already found here and there- and realized that I really am lucky to be here. Even if I’m very hurt about how my mother has reacted to my gender transition, I can’t forget how lucky I am just to be here, living a hard but not unhappy life as a writer with the first signs of an actual career to look forward to (four novels published or due for publication before age 30). Seeing Mt. Hood really brought me back to reality and gave me my second wind.
That mountain is so much more than a mountain to me; it’s a sign post, it’s a promise that I finally made it to the West Coast and that no one can take that from me while there’s breath in my lungs. It’s so large and so far away, but so near, knowable, and familiar. I know every contour of its Western face now, and how it turns gorgeous shades of orange. pink, and red in the evening sun, or purple in the morning, or shades of white, black, and blue the rest of the day.
Most days, the overcast sky hides the mountain from view but every time the clouds roll away, I am happy to see its snow-capped peak again.