But one has seen

We only visited once, but I’ve never forgotten it.
Yosemite National Park, California, 1992

“You cannot stay on the summit forever; you have to come down again. So why bother in the first place? Just this: What is above knows what is below, but what is below does not know what is above. One climbs, one sees. One descends, one sees no longer, but one has seen. There is an art of conducting oneself in the lower regions by the memory of what one saw higher up. When one can no longer see, one can at least still know.”
René Daumal

Daumal’s words are likely to ring true for most of us, I think. Whether we glimpse that “higher up” view through our religious experiences, through the satisfaction of attaining a long-sought goal, or through supreme moments of joy with friends and loved ones, our souls will feed on the memory long after the exaltation has passed.

When I read the quote above, I was reminded of a song my friend Ellis used to play on her guitar and sing to me during our college years. It was called “John Henry Bosworth” and it was written by Paul Stookey. As with many of the songs with which Ellis could always sing my blues away, the entire thing has stuck with me all these years and I’ve sung it often. This despite my never having heard the original version by Peter, Paul & Mary until I looked it up on YouTube to hear it while writing this post. (I must admit, I liked it better when Ellis sang it, even though I generally enjoy Peter, Paul & Mary. Their version is a bit more “twangy” which is not my favorite style. But I digress.)

The song has a very appealing message of a family whose happiness transcends the turbulent circumstances in the world around them. The story of Bosworth and his family is summed up in this final verse:

And I was wondering if you had been to the mountain
To look at the valley below?
Did you see all the roads tangled down in the valley?
Did you know which way to go?
Oh the mountain stream runs pure and clear
And I wish to my soul I could always be here
But there’s a reason for living way down in the valley
That only the mountain knows

Most of us are blessed with at least a few of these mountaintop experiences that give us the ability to see beyond our immediate situation. While some have many more such happy memories than others, the opportunity is there for each of us to climb higher up and get the unique perspective that will inform our conduct as we live in the valleys. Of course, in this life we cannot remain at these lofty heights. But as Daumal reminds us, what we cannot see, once glimpsed, becomes something we can still know.

18 Comments

  1. Paula Escobell

    And so we keep climbing…Thank you, Julia!

    • You’re welcome, Paula! I’m always delighted to see you here.

  2. I think this is a wonderful perspective. You always have such interesting quotes since you are so much more well read. It’s like I get to read what I missed vicariously. Once we know we can never go back to the same spot we were. Hope you had a lovely Easter, Julia. Hugs. M

    • Thank you Marlene. We had a nice, peaceful Easter weekend. Matt wanted to create an Easter basket for his driver, Nishchal, who is like a brother to him, so we had fun doing that. Nishchal and his family are Hindu, so that might be the first Easter basket he’s gotten, although now that they have a little one they may have picked up the custom. BTW not all of the quotes I use come from my personal reading. There are some great quote sites– The Quote Garden is one of my favorites — and I also pick some up from other authors who use quotes in their work. Yes, we can’t really go back to a previous mindset, and mostly that’s a great thing. That reminds me of a quote I heard recently with an added update. The original quote is “No two persons ever read the same book” (Edmund Wilson) and Jan Karon, the author quoting him, has her character add “…and no person ever reads the same book twice.” Not sure who came up with that second one but it’s part of the magic of reading. Hope you are enjoying some springtime weather. We are supposed to get SNOW again this Saturday, right at peak bloom time. I’m enjoying the cherry blossoms while they last. Sending flowery hugs!

      • Thanks for the information, Julia and the flowery hugs. 🙂 We will have thunderstorms Saturday. Snow no longer a possibility here. Cherry blossoms long gone. I read a chicken soup book a second time and remembered not one story in it. Turned out it was the third time I read it and had bought it 3 times over the course of 15 years or so. I gave one copy away before I moved and did not realize I had a copy here when I bought it again. I unfortunately did that too many times. 🙂 How sweet that Matt wanted to make an Easter basket for his friend and driver. He has a good heart. Giant hugs. M

        • Marlene, over 20 years ago I started keeping a log of the books I read. I had to do that because it was so easy to forget whether I’d read a book before. Now I will occasionally get a chapter or two into a book and think “Hey, this sounds familiar…” and then I’ll search back in my log and find that yes, I HAVE read this before. If I’m enjoying it, no harm in reading it again! But I do want to know if my imagination is playing tricks on me. I’m always surprised at how little I remember, given that I’ve got a pretty good memory and have a hard drive in my brain that’s way too full already. 🙂 I need to put the log in digital format, though…it’s getting too hard to search through. BTW I have never read a single Chicken Soup book (as far as I can remember 😀 ) but I do have a couple that were given to me over the years, that I still intend to get to. My soul could definitely use some Chicken Soup. One of my favorite cartoons is of a very scary-looking guy in a prison cell reading a book titled “Chicken Soup for the Criminally Insane.” 😀 Sending laughter and hugs!

          • I love that title for Chicken Soup. I read one story a night before bed. I have “MANY”! 🙂 Thanks for the giggle.

            • Maybe you and I should start our own inspirational series, Marlene. Something that combines the comfort-food appeal of chicken soup, with the mentality of the recovering perfectionist or the person of even humbler culinary tastes. We could call it “cheese toast for the easy to please” or maybe “leftover spaghetti for the pathologically distracted” (I think spaghetti always tastes better the second day). 😀

              • You are funny. How about grilled cheese your way? 🙂 Still trying to catch my breath here. I need all the inspiration I can get. The Chicken Soup book I’m reading now is “Miracles and More”. Definitely looking for one and I know it’s possible. But I guess most of the miracle is in how we handle what we get.

                • Marlene, maybe most, but not all! There are many people on this very blog with remarkable stories to tell. 🙂 Meanwhile, as the old song says, “don’t stop believing.” 😀 😀 😀

  3. Harry Sims

    Oh! Thank you so much!
    Oh! Oh! Thank you so much!
    Harry

    • You’re welcome, Harry!

  4. raynard

    Julia, the opening lines of your blog” had me in the Wayback Machine. You know” THe Cat’s in the Cradle/ Simon and Garfunkle/Wolfman Jack/American Top 40 with Casey Caseem. I digress.My wife Mary is just getting over ” some virus after giving it to me. And then my sinuses along with a cold had me” Sounding like the Snuffleupagus on Sesame Street” fighting the Fat Lady in the circus for a piece of leftover Easter Candy I digress.Did you get the pictures of my last cake I titled”Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cake?. Hope all is well your way with you and your way. Warm weather is taking too long to get here. If you happen to see a ice cream place down your way called” Rita’s that serve Italian Water ice,” it’s to TRY” for especially topped with vanilla custard.Be blessed.

    • Raynard, it is great to hear from you. I keep intending to get over to Upper Room and see how you are doing, but so far I am barely keeping up with the “have to’s” such as just now getting done with my taxes. Hey I went hunting in my inbox for the Cinnamon Toast Crunch cake (you had me at cinnamon) but could not find it. It was not in my spam filter either so I checked Facebook just in case you sent it there, even though I don’t want Mark Zuckerberg selling your baking data, hee-hee. Anyway I could not find a trace of the cake pictures which may mean that the internet gremlins like to eat .jpg files that look tasty. If it’s not too much trouble you can try re-sending it and I’ll let you know if I get it this time. I occasionally pass a Rita’s (though not lately; I think the only one I know of is in Virginia Beach) and every time I do I think of you but so far have never seen one at a time when I could take the time to stop. It’s on my list, though. If it ever gets warm again, that is. Are you supposed to get the snow Saturday like we are? Did the Ground Hog bargain up to 8 more weeks from the usual 6? Just think, in a few more weeks I’ll probably be complaining about how hot is is. Seems a long way off, though. Tell Mary hi for me and y’all have a great week! Thanks for checking in!

  5. Good morning, Julia!
    Still, we must cultivate the fruits of the vision that we were given (and blessed to enjoy) up on that mountain, when we are back here in the “real world” (aka the “shadowlands”).
    Love, light and peace to you and Matt!

    • Hi Susan! Yes, we keep tilling that soil even when it’s rocky ground, or parched and dry, or even flooded. Lots of work sometimes, but hopefully a rewarding process even before the fruit shows up. Love, light and peace to you too! ❤

  6. Ann

    Another thought-provoking quote married with a wonderful photograph. Thank you! I don’t remember the folk song you referenced but am now inspired to search for it.

    • Thank you, Ann. I’m so happy you liked it! If you can’t find the words (or video) for the song, let me know and I’ll send you a link. I think you will enjoy the whole thing. It sort of points out the difference in the 1960’s activist mentality and the (sad) state of affairs today.

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