Thursday, March 8, 2018

Clarion Call of the Mountains

There are many sounds to love in the wild places of the world. Who doesn’t love the chuckle of a brook hidden amongst the flowers of a lush meadow, or the distant roar of a mighty river deep in the canyon it has hewn for itself over the millennia. The rush of evening breeze in the boughs of an alpine forest is another lovely noise, and so is the lonely keening of the wind through a notch on a blasted stony peak.

Few sounds match the delightful cascade of transcendent beauty that is the song of a forest wren, and the call of the chickadee brings to me euphoric smell of silver fir no matter where I hear it. The cry of an bald eagle instantly conjures scenes from the mighty Alaskan fjords, and the croak of a raven is the epitome of the desolate snowy landscapes of winter in the mountains.

Then there are the quiet sounds of the forest - the rustle of little things busy at their secret tasks. The intricate symphony of rain pattering on the complex foliage of a temperate rainforest. The gentle, almost imperceptible padding of the delicate hooves of deer through a springy carpet of moss.

One could wax truly poetical of the profound silence that is the hallmark of a landscape free of human presence. All the noises of the natural world combined make up this silence, and once heard it can never be forgotten. It is a silence to bring tears to the eyes of the most hardened mountaineer.

However, to me there is one single sound that is inseparable from the high glory of the mountain wilderness. It is a sound that reverberates back through my life to my earliest memories of the mountains, and it is voiced by the humble Pika.

The high pitched whistle produced by this diminutive rodent fills the highest granite cathedrals of America. It speaks to me of the fields of boulders that I’ve loved to climb through since childhood. It shouts out across the mountains to tell all who hear that they have reached the pinnacle of wilderness splendor. Their cry brings me hope and happiness whenever I hear it, and a sense of loss whenever I venture into a mountain kingdom and return never having heard it.

The sad truth is that Pikas are among the creatures most affected by our changing climate, and with great sadness I have noticed their decline. Their call is a warning to others of their kind, yet it is a lack of their calls that must be a warning to human kind. To me, if there were not countless other reasons to reform ourselves and fight back against the pollution irrevocably changing our world, the survival of the Pika and it’s wonderful whistle would be cause enough for me.


Written in one hour for the #NatureWritingChallenge

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