f r e e z e f r a m e.
that's what i thought, looking at the mountains surrounding the little village of Ftan, Switzerland. our lives seem frozen in time, just like these mountains.
As though where we are will always be who we are now. As though we've always been here and the dream sequences of history have as much reality as the sometimes manic, mythic, or magic aspects of a cartoon. Those who stood, frozen in their time, leave us their stories and yet… yet we miss the part about human stupidity being one of the few things seemingly granted perpetuity: same destructive impulses, different century. It strikes me as very ground-hog day, the ways in which humans approach civilization... Politics... Greed... Power.
So there I was, studying those mountains for several days. Outlining with my eyes their contours and peaks and how they looked flour-coated in snow. I loved the steady progression of alpine pines climbing ever higher and becoming smaller in their ascent. It was their sturdiness that struck me and I loved them for it.
I also loved the quiet and expansive, sun-drenched solitude. Sitting on the terrace of a small restaurant straddled betwixt the ancient battlefield of crashing tectonic plates, I marveled at the serenity of a truce held for perhaps millions of years. And I thought about how we take for granted that these impervious and imposing peaks never change. That's what someone said: these mountains have been the same for thousands of years. And I thought, how can it be? Nature must continually sculpt them, with wind and water and the heaviness of snow. It must be hardly perceptible to us, even as we, like those mountains, are continually sculpted by the force of time, gravity, stress, and just plain old age.
The sadness struck me then, covering me in a heavy wet blanket of tears... leaving my emotions smouldering, smoke-choking my brain and tearing at my equilibrium. The shock and awe of feeling insignificant.
Perhaps it was the lack of oxygen mixed with the cold. Or that everyone I was with skied all day and went to bed early and I remained on the sidelines, reading books and looking at the mountains. Restless. Trapped. In a desert of snow.
On the next-to-last day in Ftan, I decided to walk to its modest 18th century church, which sits above the entire village. The small, white-washed plaster interior moderated sunlight with mostly opaque leaded-glass windows. But in the round sermon alcove were two blue glass windows of lambs and a man, who I assumed to be Jesus. There were several other windows with panes of flowers, pleasant and pastel colored. The alcove had an impressive vaulted ceiling ending in a lovely archway, stenciled with flowers and vines. Minimalist but warm and very very friendly.
What I immediately liked was the smell of the place. Like the beach. Or like the faint, fresh smell of sawdust. The pews and balconies were all untreated pine, yet bearing the lovely patina of time and human touch. The floor was gray slate with no rich, long-dead patrons buried beneath it. The sanctuary was nice and I sat down for a while, in the middle of the day, all by my self.
I thought again about life as freeze-frame. Forcing myself to acknowledge just how unfrozen and fluid life really is. And how hard it is to comprehend our own movement through time.
For me, George Bush became a marker of how time moves and how our lives change: thrusting helplessness upon my American can-doism as I struggled, watching him and his ilk unravel our lives and continue to hold us enthralled to the old, dangerous paradigm of might is right.
Yet. Yet, there are other markers of our trajectory through time. I thought about them, as well, in that pleasant little church 5,400 feet up in the air. That change, like peace, comes dropping slow. It takes time to get it right. But we, as a group, we humans, have changed. There are millions and millions of us who believe in human rights. Resource sharing. Equity. Responsible freedom. PEACE. We are evolving to find ways to exert pressure on the warriors to step back in our lives. But it takes time. This evolutionary sculpting of our ethics and imperatives.
Then I realized one small thing. I, too, am a sculptor. My momentary blip, my intrusion into the stream of the universe is part of the record now. My energy and beliefs will shape what happens. As crazy as it seems, I thought okay. I matter. I am matter.
I also realized only when we are gone, will our frozen moment come. We will be forever held, unchanged, to the PAST. Our time will become that long-ago age, surrounded in myth and magic, shrouded in tragedy, and studied in history classes.
Will we find a way to leave something more than a story? Will we find some way of breaking the code and communicating with our future ancestors? How do we get them to heed the tale and understand they are us, we were them. Matter. That matters.