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Literature of Mount Shasta

The Commonplace

From Outlook to Nature (1905), pages 56-61

By Liberty Hyde Bailey

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I preach the mountains, and everything that is taller than a man. Yet it is to be feared that many persons see too many mountains and too many great landscapes, and that the "seeing " of nature becomes a business as redundant and wearisome as other affairs. One who lives on the mountains does not know how high they are. Let us have one inspiration that lifts us clear of ourselves: this is better than to see so many mountains that we remember only their names. The best objects that you can see are those in your own realm; but your own realm becomes larger and means more for the sight of something beyond.

It is worth while to cherish the few objects and phenomena that have impressed us greatly, and it is well to recount them often, until they become part of our being. One such phenomenon stands out boldly in my own experience. It was the sight of sunrise on Mt. Shasta, seen from the southeastern side from a point that was wholly untouched by travelers. From this point only the main dome of the mountain is seen. I had left the Southern Pacific train at Sisson's and had ridden of a flat-car over a lumber railroad some eighteen miles to the southeast. From this destination, I drove far into the great forest, over old lava dust that floated through the woods like smoke as it was stirred up by our horses and wagon-wheels. I was a guest for the night in one of those luxurious lodges which true nature-lovers, wishing wholly to escape the affairs of cities, build in remote and inaccessible places. The lodge stood on a low promontory, around three sides of which a deep swift mountain stream ran in wild tumult. Giant shafts of trees, such shafts as one sees only in the stupendous forest of the far West, shot straight into the sky from the very cornices of the house. It is always a marvel to the easterner how shafts of such extraordinary height could have been nourished by the very thin and narrow crowns that they bear. One always wonders, also, at the great distance the sap-water must carry its freight of mineral from root to leaf and its heavier freight from leaf to root.

We were up before the dawn. We made a pot of coffee, and the horses were ready.--fine mounts, accustomed to woods trails and hard slopes. It was hardly light enough to enable us to pick our way. We were as two pigmies, so titanic was the forest. The trails led us up and up, under spruce boughs becoming fragrant, over needle-strewn floors still heavy with darkness, disclosing glimpses now and then of gray light showing eastward between the boles. Suddenly the forest stopped, and we found ourselves on the crest of a great ridge: and sheer before us stood the great cone of Shasta, cold and gray and silent, floating on a sea of darkness from which even the highest tree crowns did not emerge. Scarcely had we spoken in the miles of our ascent, and now words would be sacrilege. Almost automatically we dismounted, letting the reins fall over the horses' necks, and removed our hats. The horses stood, and dropped their heads. Uncovered, we sat ourselves on the dry leaves and waited. It was the morning of creation. Out of the pure stuff of nebulae the cone had just been shaped and flung adrift until a world should be created on which it might rest. The gray light grew into white. Wrinkles and features grew into the mountain. Gradually a ruddy light appeared in the east. Then a flash of red shot out of the horizon, struck on a point of the summit, and caught from crag to crag and snow to snow until the great mass was streaked and splashed with fire. Slowly the darkness settled away from its base; a tree emerged; a bird chirped; and the morning was born!

Now a great nether world began to rise up out of Chaos. Far hills rose first through rolling billows of mist. Then came wide forests of spruce. As the panorama rose, the mountain changed from red to gold. The stars had faded out and left the great mass to itself on the bosom of the rising world,--the mountain fully created now and established. Spriggy bushes and little leaves--little green-brown leaves and tender tufts of herbs--trembled out of the woods. The illimitable circle of the world stretched away and away, its edges still hung in the stuff from which it had just been fashioned. Then the forest rang with calls of birds and a hundred joyous noises, and the creation was complete!


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