A LIFE SHAPED BY MOUNTAINS
Text by Alex Bodogan
Photo by Paul Zizka
When life strikes a blow that makes you want to run and hide, sometimes all it takes is a good look up to inspire a good look within. Alex Bodogan reflects on the mountains’ power to inspire positive change when we stick around to face our demons.
Ask a greenhorn what brought them to the mountains, and a lifer what keeps them around, and I’ll bet a paycheque their answers would be eerily similar: adventure, lifestyle, friends, relationships, the unparalleled beauty. But if you look more closely at the lifer, you might notice they’re holding something back. There might be one more element brought into the equation – something personal, unique, close to the heart. One particular experience that was the final nudge to make the mountains their one and only home.
For me, that nudge came in the form of a push. When I was in need of a personal overhaul, I was presented with two choices: stare alcoholism in the face and deal with it or run away. But I felt an embrace from a powerful source. The mountains themselves called out in a towering silence to inspire and motivate me to stand as tall as they are. I felt an energy that could go unnoticed to some but could be heard louder than a thousand avalanches to anyone willing to listen. As I stood amongst the towers of rock pondering my next move, I was encircled by the stories and lives of the countless others who stood there before me asking, “What’s next?” Lives shaped by the surrounding rock into something meaningful, someone meaningful. I didn’t want to run. I wanted to stand. Stand with the greats, the people, and the peaks.
I can’t remember when or how the thought came to me, but it seems the wind whispered a message: keep what’s great, change what needs to be changed, move forward, not away. With a bit of motivation under my belt, I started to climb. And like any mountain climb, moving up and forward takes ambition and a steady pace. I knew that getting to know and love one’s true self isn’t easy and takes time in solitude. I started to spend time alone in the wilderness, learning to be honest with myself, learning my true likes and dislikes, not what I was told to like. I learned what I really wanted from life.
The funny thing about this environment is that, even though I was in solitude, I was never really alone. I was in the constant company of the peaks and valleys, the flora and fauna, and the ghosts of past self-explorers who walked the path before me. I began to shed the burden of living life for anyone other than myself. I began to grow, to stand side-by-side with the rocky crags on my own two feet, yet supported by the world around me.
As quickly as I adopted my newfound confidence, the great grey teachers immediately taught me the second lesson. Walking with confidence and self-respect comes with a responsibility to find the balance between holding a high level of self-worth and staying grounded. Living life immersed in this environment provides us all with constant checks and balances. In this world, we are denied complacency. It reminds us to find ways to stand tall and be humble, all in one stride.
As I moved forward through this new, yet familiar world, the idea of respect and responsibility moved along with me. These values extended from me to include my teachers. First, to acknowledge the mountains’ power of contradiction, their loving embrace, and their unforgiving might. It can take nothing more than a quick change in the weather or one misstep to reveal such a power of opposites. With every step forward, I gained an understanding that, to successfully navigate through this land, respect is the brightest light.
And, naturally, as a cub follows mama bear, responsibility followed my newfound regard. A sense of stewardship fell upon me, propelling me to become an ambassador of these great castles. I was offered the ultimate dream job. I was given the chance to humbly share what I know, to tread lightly, and to never turn my back on what has been gifted to me.
In a community where people often appear and vanish like ghosts, we have the option to stick around to reinvent ourselves through the tougher times, revealing a brand new world in a familiar place.
An overland adventurer, writer and musician, Alex Bodogan can most often be found steering his overlanding rig through the mountains of Western Canada.