Every adventure starts with a good name. At the airport I named ours Hashtag Ya’ll Ready for This, a title that melds the cultural relevance of 2013 with the jock-jam genius of the 1990’s.
Jock jams get me ready for anything. Especially Europe. And sometimes the 3pm work hour. I almost called the trip “Hashtag Pump Up the Jam” or “Hashtag Let’s Get Ready to Rumble,” but in the end I liked a name with a power question attached.
I spelled out “hashtag” because I haven’t figured out exactly what it’s for yet, kind of like multivitamins or mouthwash. I use a hashtag occasionally because everyone else does, but mostly because it feels like a declaration and invitation at the same time.
Hashtag Ya’ll Ready for This began in Zermatt, Switzerland, where the long-planned centerpiece of our adventure sat at the base of The Matterhorn.
Zermatt is a place of clean, quiet stillness, where breath lingers and life is lived in a whisper, as if everyone is waiting for an echo to return from the Alps.
The crunching cadence of boots on snow halts every two or three steps as skiers peel back their gloves, tuck them between their teeth, and snap a photo of the skyline.
Everyone is taking the same picture, again and again, and I found myself doing the same, trying to capture The Matterhorn in dozens of pictures that all look the same.
Mountains are familiar to me in a lot of ways. I grew up Colorado where the Rockies acted as muscular articulations of God-nearness. In fact, the Rockies were the most convincing argument to me that God really wanted to be known. I assumed that He created those purple mountains majesty as an invitation to climb and struggle and investigate the big questions, as a sort of jungle gym for self-actualization.
Mountains have always felt like an adventurer’s cathedral, a place to pray and know that God is on the other side of the ridge, responding with an exhale of wind that arrives from invisible places. And the Alps felt the same, just higher, bigger, and quieter somehow.
The Matterhorn was more of an encounter than a spectacle.
It stirs something in you, an awareness too peaceful to call romance and too fierce to call wonder.
It has taken me six days to write about it. Part of the delay was jet lag, part train schedules, drained computer battery, and spotty WiFi, but mostly I hesitated to write because The Matterhorn felt too big, too clean to clutter with words.
Most of the time I’m impossibly bad at silence, using it only occasionally because others do. I live with silence without fully knowing what it’s for.
But at The Matterhorn, silence was the admission that this red-cheeked adventurer had nothing to add, no photograph, no written word or clever hashtag. My most reverent response was an invisible one, a form of worship that no one else knew.
Silence was the first symptom of reverent travel. It was the aftershock of looking at a mountain and knowing, just knowing, deep down in my scratchy wool socks and clingy thermal underwear, that God, this God, the God is in the room.
And even though God sometimes speaks in personal dialogue, in our vernacular, for our benefit, sometimes, probably even most of the time, He speaks in big, self-evident declarations, in a created mountain that stands sharp and tall in a clear blue sky for all adventurers to come and behold and know, just know, the He is here, that He is God, and that He’s been here the whole entire time.
I think that’s what silence is for… to be still and know, really know, that something bigger is right here in front of us. Of course it is in mountains, but really it is in any other place we get quiet enough to look for it.
I don’t think you can hashtag silence. It seems contradictory, somehow. But at least now I’m starting to know what it’s for.
It’s a declaration, or an invitation, or maybe it is both at the same time.