Volunteer Reflections

2011-10-04 17:31:46.000 – Lowell Williams,  Summit Volunteer


Mount Washington, like any other geologic formation, is millions and millions of years old. Its memories are inscribed on the landscape in a language that we struggle to understand. So, we develop geology to study the mountain’s rocks and meteorology to understand the mountain’s weather. Sometimes bound up in technology, it’s still a natural communication we engage in, like talking to an old friend and reminiscing about our shared past or speculate about the future. That’s one reason why we love places like Mount Washington. It’s a natural signpost; when you visit it’s like mother nature has hauled out her photo album and asked you to come sit down as she pages through years and years of dramatic events that you never knew about and a few you can recall together. Huge gusts of wind and piles of snow, bitterly cold temperatures and unusually warm days, or curious wildlife that made its way to the peak. It’s our way to communicate with the mountain. It makes us feel connected to her in some small way. Indeed, our memories of this place will inform our actions in the future, for we are creatures defined by our memories, just as the mountain is.

I’ve spent a week as a volunteer on the summit and I’ve discovered this is a place of treasured memories for the people who work here. What they do is driven by those who came before: those early Observers, whose footprints are still visible. The day by day history of this place, like rings of a tree, are vaulted and secured for future generations.

I’ve met not just Observers, but tourists and others who find this rare environment appealing. They come from all over to be here, and represent a variety of organizations, some intent on research and discovery, and some just providing a chance to ride to a mountain top. You get an odd glimpse of world cultures just standing along the observation deck on a soothing fall day. They say you can see five states from here. Don’t forget to count the one you’re in.

My experience has been no different than those who have been coming to the summit for hundreds of years. I could not help but listen as the mountain demanded my attention, whispering to me, even in the loudest gale. Each time she spoke, we exchanged a smile as I promised to remember what she’s tried to teach me of her history, and hints at shape of things to come.


Lowell Williams,  Summit Volunteer

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