The second day here dawned cool and overcast at Lucerne. We checked the weather before heading out to get the car rental only to find cold and snow forecast along the way May 16th? Snow? This was particularly unwelcome as we’d be heading into the mountains toward the Matterhorn.
Sure enough, as we approached the Grimsel Pass an hour and a half later we saw two signs indicating that the Pass was closed due to weather. Disbelieving (or wanting to) we continued on, finally stopping at a restaurant – hotel to ask if it were true. “It were.” We turned and retraced our steps (rolls?), having already driven through one mountain pass full of new snow and snow actively falling around us. It was beautiful, but the hairpin turns were enough to turn the hairpin gray.
Looking for another way, we stopped at a roadside help station (with coffee!). They too were closed, and when we returned to the car I could not figure out how to get it into reverse. Lovely. We pushed it back – carefully – onto the mountain road, then jumped in and continued on our way.
Later on the trip we made it through another pass on a car-train. That was a new one for me. Typical of my ‘out-of-it-ness’ in new experiences, we were actually sitting on the car-train ready to head through 12 kilometers of tunnel before I even realized we had arrived. Off we went, bouncing through a completely dark and noisy tube. We made it through. A successful passage.
After many further adventures that day, which I will not recount here out of mercy, we arrived at Tasch, a town just kilometers from Zermatt, the town at the foot of the Matterhorn. That eveningI took a walk through the town. To either side tower the Alps, some of them still snowcapped. It was cold with a light breeze. The sense of awe I felt looking up at these summits in the silence was wonderful. It felt like a re-setting of my visual and spiritual clock, a reconnecting with the amazing truth that creation is creation. It was that marvelous gift of having no desire to be anywhere other than where you are, to be completely present in that moment.
The next morning we took the train from the station next door to Zermatt. I walked through the town, ascending, ascending, past the skiers preparing for the slopes, past the church bells ringing and wild echoing through the air, past the tourists, and the resident moms gathering their children for school or errands, past the ancient wooden houses and the new chalets, past the waters rushing down off the mountains, until I turned a corner and got a clear view of the Matterhorn.
It is, in the best sense of the word, extreme. Extreme in the sense of being fully and radically and only itself, an attribute that would be shared with all of creation were it not for our compromises with mediocrity and acceptance of less than the full grace poured out our way at every moment from the source of this and every mountain – and every valley as well.
It was, in the original sense of the word, awesome, beyond the telling, worth the gazing, simply beautiful.