The Mountain Doesn’t Judge

There’s a quote that keeps coming to me as I pitch up at the gym in the wrong outfit, repeatedly. It’s winter, colder, wetter, darker, and the treadmill is the only way to hold onto some semblance of fitness.

The quote comes to me as I waste another hour trying to find a jersey to tie around my hips to hide my rear. A jersey that inevitably makes it look bigger, but that does obscure it from the people queued behind me on the treadmill, waiting for me to get off.

It comes as I search for leggings that hang a little looser, that at the same time won’t look like, as my younger cousin puts it, give-up-on-life pants. As I hunt for a t-shirt that hangs low enough over my derrière, that won’t fly up with each stride.

The quote comes when I picture all those eyes. All those bright lights. All those adverts pasted across the walls. Even though I know… I shouldn’t worry about what others think, I should get out of their heads and back into my own. Even though I know that perception is an illusion, that looks are superficial, and that “Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind” (often thought to be said by Dr. Seuss but is actually from FDR presidential advisor Bernard Baruch, about his dinner party seating arrangements).

But, worry I do.

So what is that quote? It’s from the film, “What Women Want,” spoken by Mel Gibson as he pitches for a Nike commercial (let’s focus on the words and not the fallen-from-grace Gibson). Perhaps the words will work for you as they have for me. The quote goes…

You don’t stand in front
of a mirror before a run…
and wonder what the road
will think of your outfit.

You don’t have to listen to its
jokes and pretend they’re funny.

It would not be easier to run
if you dressed sexier.

The road doesn’t notice
if you’re not wearing lipstick.

It does not care
how old you are.

You do not feel
because you make more money
than the road.

And you can call on the road
whenever you feel like it,
whether it’s been a day…
or a couple of hours
since your last date.

The only thing
the road cares about…
is that you pay it a visit
once in a while.

No games.
Just sports.

I don’t know about you, but it is exactly this that pulls me to the mountain. To the road, trail or tar. And not the treadmill. It is exactly this that makes me feel that I belong. When I find myself worrying too much about meaningless concerns, I know I need to get outside. I know I need the trees, tall and towering over me, the rocky cliffs, steep and strong, and the meandering paths, leading up and down, up and down, up and down.

Because going to the mountains is, as Muir wrote, going home.


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