The Mountains Are Always There


For the past three days, it’s been raining. A lot. Three inches, according to the gauge in the garden. The two mountains that flank our new home vanished in the mist. Last night the fog closed in, shrouding us in gray.

Our little Andean paradise, our Shangri-La nestled between the volcanoes, disappeared, as if in some South American version of a David Copperfield show: Now you see it, now you don’t.

And yet.
And yet.
The mountains are always there.

Last night the rain ended. This morning the sun rose over the strong left shoulder of Mt. Imbabura, just out our front door. Water droplets hung like liquid diamonds on the trees and pooled in the throats of the hibiscus and calla lilies. Behind us, Mt. Cotacachi showed herself in all her snow-clad glory, white hair of wisdom crowning the Great Mother.

IMG_6711I learned a lesson from our dog Yapa this week. I was sitting on the front porch, watching the clouds scudding across the mountains, and noticed her, standing there motionless, staring into the flower bed. Nothing there, of course, but the detritus of the garden—some dried leaves, black earth, fallen blooms. But I knew immediately what she was up to. Every night, there’s a frog outside our bedroom window who croaks us to sleep.

Yapa wants that frog. Badly. She’s never seen it—none of us has—but she can’t stop herself from looking. From waiting. From hoping.

On those days when I feel a twinge of dissatisfaction, a momentary longing for some imaginary something I do not possess, these words from an anonymous prisoner in a Nazi camp put me to shame:

“I believe in the sun
even when it is not shining.
I believe in love
even when no one’s there.
I believe in God
even when God is silent. . . .”

The truth is, I have everything anyone could possibly need, and more than I ever hoped for or dreamed of.

I have love. I have security. I have a home in a place that takes my breath away, every single day. I open my eyes to light on the mountains and lush green all around me. I listen to the birds and the wind and the laughter and conversation of my neighbors beyond the fence. I can pick avocados and lemons in my own back yard. There is nothing—nothing—that anyone could offer me that I don’t already have. Everything that’s important in life is here already. Around me. Within me.

But I forget.

And you do too, probably. Sometimes we all lose sight of what we have in the quest for some greener pasture. And so today, in this present moment, I pause to celebrate the amazing gift I call my life. The wonders of the natural world around me. The fulfillment of love I’ve discovered in the woman I share my life with. The laughter. The tears. The adventure. The mundane. All of it.

Every bit.
Every moment.
Every day.



At the edge of the porch
our little black dog
holds vigil,
searching for the source
of the nightly frog song
from the flower beds.

Serenaded, we three—
my love, our dog, and I,
in this stunning Andean valley
where swallows dance
and mockingbirds sing
and hummingbirds whir and glint
like living jewels
among the flowers.

I lift my eyes to the mountains,
eighteen thousand feet above,
as morning sun flows down
like molten gold
within the folds.

The dog,
intent and focused
as only dogs can be,
stares into earth,
dried leaves,
and desiccated blossoms,
hoping for the music
to return.

How often
have I been like her,
intent on what I hoped for,
missing it all?

©2018 Penelope J. Stokes



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5 Responses to The Mountains Are Always There

  1. Susan says:

    So inspiring, Penny. Miss you and Pam. Thinking of you often. Thank you.

  2. LaVonne says:

    Lovely – your reflection, your poem, your photos, your dog, you! Just don’t let Yapa eat the frog, – those critters can be poisonous. There’s probably a lesson in that, too…

  3. Kathy says:

    Absolutely beautiful ~ every word! Thank you for sharing ~ thank you for inspiring …

  4. love this…think of you often and vicariously enjoy your new found place of beauty and peace

  5. DiAnn Grimes says:

    Penny, I just love your words. You are an artist and your medium is words. Thank you. Love you lots.

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