On my bookshelf is a copy of Joseph T. Hazard’s Snow Sentinels of the Pacific Northwest. It’s an old book—published in 1932— about the eight great snow-peaks of the Cascade Range and the Olympics. I acquired this volume more than twenty years ago in a used book shop in Ellensburg, Washington. Back then, I was living in the West. If I wasn’t trying to climb one of those mountains out there, then I was reading about them.
Now I live in the Northeast, where we have lovely, blue-green and hay-scented mountains but no snow-peaks. I spend my days cutting down trees and hauling brush. I am trying to restore an old meadow nearly lost to the dark woods. Too many old fields and pastures around here have vanished along with the farms they once surrounded. For some reason, I am compelled to keep one or two of these intervals open to the sun. It’s hard work. I don’t even have any farm animals, but the worm-eager robins seem pleased with my efforts.
At night I read. Reading helps to preserve another kind of meadow, this one inside the head. Sometimes, though, I get nostalgic for those glistening Elysian firns of the Pacific Northwest. Or maybe I just miss my youth, which is yet another kind of meadow being lost to dark woods. In any case, that’s when I pull down Snow Sentinels and flip it open to find passages like this: “We arrive at the summer snowfields. The air is clear, the sun bright, and to the reaches of dimming distance the floating maelstrom of snow summits is stilled to a white silence.”