• Maggie Wheeler

Lessons from the Mountain

Updated: May 7, 2019

I’m hurtin’ this morning, people. But what a lovely hurtin’ it is.

Yesterday, Eastern Ontario finally had a truly beautiful spring day—on a weekend! It hit around 18 degrees Celsius (about 65 degrees Fahrenheit) and the sun was a joy to receive. Windows were open, neighbours were chatting on their lawns and I got my first set of sheets on the line for 2019.

Most important, I cut my lawn for the first time this year. And I actually enjoyed it! Yes, I know…check with me in about 30 days and I will be whistling quite a different tune about it. But to do that, I had to complete the clean up of The Mountain.

I have a small mountain in my backyard, deep in the Burbs of Brockville, Ontario. Those familiar with our neighbour upriver, Kingston, know it as the Limestone City. Brockville has granite. The real estate description of my home when I first read it years ago described the mountain as a “small rocky outcropping.” That’s probably closer to the truth than a mountain. But my rocky outcropping dominates my backyard, giving me complete privacy and an amazing natural landscape out my patio doors each morning from my dining room table. It’s my mountain. I call it Walton’s Mountain, of course, and—pop culture diva that I am—we will visit John Boy here on this journey at some point.

The Mountain has been one of my challenges for the past few years. Even wild things need tending (another potential blog post in future) and the mountain had been neglected for some years. Piles of old limbs shared space with layers of rotting acorns from my big oak tree that the squirrels had left behind. And lots of branches, weeds and small, weedy trees that had taken the opportunity to grow where they didn’t belong. Most of all, several dead trees and too many overhanging branches.

I spent the first two summers just pulling down to the lawn all the limbs and branches, and weeding, weeding, weeding. Not easy to do standing balanced on various rocks in my outcropping, not to mention the acorns that acted like marbles under your feet. And I burned all the old stuff over time. Then, last fall, when I had a good friend visiting, I organized a day I called “Three Men and a Chainsaw.” It was time to prune back the overgrowth and let the sun back into the interior (and also let the squirrels know that my roof was not a preferred destination). We took five truckloads of limbs, branches and brush out of my suburban backyard to our local compost site.

So the big moment this spring has been the raking down of The Mountain. I did the first rake last weekend and finished up yesterday to allow the cutting of my backyard. I filled three bags with leaves, old acorns and brush still left on the mountain from last year.

But it is done. The Mountain has been restored to its natural state and looks amazing. Now all I have to do this season is sit back and watch what it becomes. It is not my job to design The Mountain. It is my job to take care of it and understand it.

I have warned you that I am the Metaphor Queen and this is no exception. I took great satisfaction yesterday completing the clean up. I knew I had accomplished something important after three years: I had revealed the true beauty of The Mountain as it is to steward it and enjoy it.

This is what we need to do with ourselves as part of moving toward 60.

For good and sometimes not so good reasons, by the time we have passed the halfway mark of 50 in our lives, we—like the mountain—need tending and restoration. We have piles of things once needed but now discarded, layers of old ideas and feelings long died off but not consciously let go, weeds of outside distractions that we let take hold, and branches of effort and thought that are really now just habit and take us nowhere.

Somewhere under all that is the person half a century of living has allowed us to become. The fifth decade, as we see 60 on the horizon, is the ideal time to clean up and restore ourselves, to recover and discover who we are now. For the truth is, we have never been better or full of more potential than right now. Just like The Mountain.

Story Whisperer that I am, I can tell you that The Mountain, sitting on granite literally as old as the hills and supporting an oak tree from the last century, has stories and more lessons for me to hear as I watch it come back into full bloom.

I will be listening.

Good night, John Boy.

Talk next week,


32 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

The Wall