Living in the courts of the sky I forgot I was of the earth
—Lionel Terray, Conquistadors of the Useless
by Leslie Anthony
Not much really happens in a year when you’re the Earth. You might feel a little hot or cold here and there; you may get mildly annoyed when your tectonic skin ripples or occasionally erupts in a fiery zit. But other than shedding a bit of weight from time to time, the mountains tend to stand stoically where they were. And the oceans, even as they otherwise change in response to whatever else is going on, wash relentlessly on the same shores. In other words, while small things are in constant flux, the big picture more-or-less stands still. We humans might discover a few wrinkles or a grey hair after 30 years or so, but were our planet able to look itself in the mirror, it would be tens of millions of years before it might think Oh my, did that continent used to be so far over there? Was that mountain range always so pronounced? So while the Earth is nevertheless ageing, it presents as somewhat immutable in the context of our own short lives, a fallacy and point of hubris that is deservedly bringing us increasing trouble.
Of course plenty transpires for people during that single circuit around the sun. We see each new year as a milestone marking the progression of four seasons and all that go with them—a full cycle of plant growth and die-off, of animal migration and reproduction, of human life, death, pain, pleasure, accomplishment, setback. When we think back over a year and try to balance all that has happened, a few things—both good and bad—will always stick out. But there’s also a lot of same ol’ same ol’—a not-so-bad thing that speaks to some continuity in our lives. Likewise, when you try to balance a year in the world of outdoor adventure—the way ephemeral humanity most directly interacts with a slowly evolving Earth—you’ll find highs, lows and continuity galore throughout the different mediums (dirt, rock, water, air, snow), seasons, landscapes, personalities and social and environmental issues accompanying each. Putting all of this in some kind of perspective is the stated goal of Mountain Life Annual.
So when the universe asks How was the year?, the Earth probably won’t have an answer… but we will.