Saddleback

The other day during my lunch break, I walked to a local park to clear out my head. It had grown full of the usual junk: restless doubts and weighty thoughts about the future. As I sat down at a picnic table to eat a sandwich, I watched Saddleback sprawling in the distance.

Since moving to California almost a year ago, Saddleback has been like a new friend. I’ve never lived so close to a mountain before. Seeing its contours lit by the setting sun and its summit grazed by clouds has been a source of joy.

But on Monday, Saddleback sat there like a familiar pet. The problem with familiarity: it breeds smallness. When I walk around the same home, or same office, or same landscape, I start to feel cramped. The world gets smaller as my problems inflate into monsters.

As I took another bite of my sandwich, a plane appeared. It was a small, white, single-prop plane enjoying the skies over Irvine. It looked like a toy compared to Saddleback, as it flew at an altitude far below the summit.

I caught myself smiling as the mountain grew big again. I smiled because I knew the mountain never shrunk. Once again, I over-inflated myself and my problems. Small once again, I was free to wander the world. That plane swooped in to remind me that there is still so much to discover, so much I don’t know. It put me at ease and renewed my sense of awe.

All I needed was a reminder. All I needed was a sense of scale.