Friday, January 31, 2014
In the Space of a Legend
I have written before about the trauma of having my home office broken into by an intruder. I have never written, however, about the joy of being in the same office, and soaking up the same creative embers as a living legend. My current home office, the room behind our house, was once the work space of a living legend.
For 25 years before me, one of the greatest climbers in the history of the United States, worked in the same office space that I now occupy. For 25 years before me, one of the greatest leaders in developing Colorado trails and national spaces for public use toiled. For 25 years before me, one of the most caring people to work with young people who were need and crisis, through Outward bound international counseled young people. For 25 years before me, one of the strongest voices for environmental activism in Colorado Springs focussed his thoughts on the development of the Rocky Mountain Field Institute.
On Monday afternoon, in Boulder Colorado, at the Boulder Rock Club, that climber, builder and counselor died of unknown causes. Mark Hesse died at the age of 63.
I only met Mark once, but I could tell instantly that I was in the presence of a man who had done great things in this life. When I reached out to shake his hand, I noticed that several of the fingers on his right hand were missing. Since I knew that he was a major climber, I assumed that he had lost those fingers on the ascents he had made. Little did I know then what a famous climber Mark actually was. In 1999, Mark climbed Monte Fitz Roy, a 3,405 foot rock which juts out of the Patagonian mountain range and ice field. Mark made several first ascents around the world - often in a solo capacity. In the 1970's and 1980's Mark climbed mountains from ranges in Canada to the America Rockies, southern Utah. Mark climbed Guillamuet in Peru. Mark soloed the south face on a first ascent of Denali. Mark climbed the 22,241 foot Kangkya on a first ascent in Nepal. Mark was a legend. (The above picture is Mark practicing on the south face of Garden of the Gods in the 1980's).
What has been strange to me is how this death, of my geographic fore bearer, has somehow affected me over these past few days. When you met Mark, you had the sense that you had known him for a while. Our Reformed theology is steeped in the notion of the "God of our fathers" and the "generation to generational" aspect of life. Jung talked about a collective unconscious - that collective soul of a community which exists as a result of the people who live in it, as much as the exact historical makeup of any particular unit of it. The house that we live in, their old house, just has a good spirit in it. I'm not saying there is anything truly spiritual about it, but it just has what the Germans would call a good, "Geschtalt" - a good feeling. The Hesse's before us just seemed like good people.
And what to say about a mountain climber that died long before his time? Well, God loves mountains. Most of the sightings (or hearings) of God in the Bible occur on mountains. God spoke to Moses in a burning bush and gave him the ten commandments on on Mount Sinai. God showed Moses the promised land from Mount Nebo. Jesus taught his greatest sermon on a Mount (we don't know which one). Jesus was transfigured into the likeness of God on Mount Tabor. God spoke to king David and gave him the song, "I lift my eyes to the hills - where does my help come from? It comes from the Lord"(Psalm 121). God told David, "The mountains shall bring peace to the people, and the little hills, by righteousness" (Psalm 72). Jesus said, "If you have the faith of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move to that place over there', and it will go! Nothing will be impossible for you." (Matthew 17:20).
Mark didn't move mountains, but he loved to climb them. And so, in a way, he did move them. Mark loved what God loves - and that, as they say, is at least half the battle!
All For Now,