Today as I walked my dog down a dirt path bordered by a field of peas, punctuated by small patches of bright red poppies I saw a white mountain in the distance.
The sun glanced off its surface turning it rosy. It seemed impossibly near but I know it's more than 100 km away. I've driven through it in the longest tunnel I've ever been in, twisting and turning behind a giant truck, unable to see the exit or the entrace. Snaking our way at 70 km an hour. On our way to Milan and back.
But today I see it as it is meant to be seen. From a distance, that seems at once so near, guarded by grey, craggy peaks that it dwarfs easily. It's proud, cold and mesmerizingly beautiful.
I walk through someone else's fields, looking around to make sure there are no No Trespassing signs. How do they say that in French? Will some farmer shout at me? Will I understand what he says? How I betray my ignorance and discomfort every day.
I forget this is not America. If there is a narrow path through a field perhaps I can walk on it, with my dog sniffing out the scents of others who walked on it before us. It had rained earlier and the air is still heavy with moisture. I feel it on my skin like a balm.
I stare straight at the mountain, aware and amazed that my gaze takes in the sight of two countries at once. They open up before me green and vibrant, splashes of color liberally thrown in.
On another path some distance away, between softly blowing fronds of some crop, a bicyclist speeds away. People are heading home for the evening.
And I look at the mountain that has stood there for centuries. Centuries before I arrived, before any of this existed. I know I am in the presence of something huge. Something unknowable. Important.
Which is why conditions have to be right and the air brightly clear on the days that you can see Mont Blanc.