A New Paint Job

I've been fortunate enough to cross paths with many mountains over the past year:


Mountains are all very different. Some are formed by the tremendous energy of tectonic plates crashing together or skidding against each other. Sometimes hot magma from deep within the Earth bubbles upwards, cooling and hardening into smooth granite before it cracks the surface. Others are created by the forceful rush of rivers carving deep valleys and leaving mountains protruding high between them.

In the mountains, the sky seems closer, bluer, mistier. The ground seems hotter, and the sky cooler. The mountains are quiet at first, but then filled with the noisiness of birds, leaves, insects, chattering, crunching, buzzing, steady breathing.

At the heart of its forcefulness, this intersection of earth and sky has a magnetic draw. The mountains make the rest of the world humble in their majesticness. They are unfaltering, refreshing, a cool contradiction to the fleetingness of everything else. Being in the mountains feels raw, rejuvanating, and serene.

After returning to Boston last fall I felt restless. Even when they are not nearby, the allure of the mountains is inescapable. My best option was to pack a backpack, wave goodbye to urban life, and embark on a trekking journey. I ended up going with the second best option.

I used 3 pints of paint, one white, one grey, and one brown, mixing them together in different quantities to get different shades. The top layer was first, followed by the lower ones in order. I tried sketching an outline with pencil at first, but quickly gave up the planning in favor of carving peaks and valleys as I felt like it, each layer inspired by a different mountain range I'd visited.

A finished wall mural:

A finished mural

And the process:

Naturalist, conservationist and adventurer John Muir spent much of his life fighting to preserve the Western parks and forests. In 1890, his activism inspired the creation of Yosemite National Park. Today, the John Muir trail runs a winding 211 miles through the rugged beauty of the Sierra Nevadas. Muir authored many letters, essays, and books, famous for his enthusiasm and spiritual evocation of nature.

Looking at my wall now, John Muir's words come to mind:

Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home.