Great Change is Underfoot

By Anna Mitchael

The Guadalupe Mountains lie about 500 miles to our west, two hours shy of our friends in El Paso.

They are a sight to behold any way you come at them, but if you want the view from the top, then Guadalupe Peak is your climb. Getting to the highest natural point in Texas is not easy, but you don’t have to be a skilled hiker to do it. I know because I made the climb a few years ago and the bulk of my training was wearing a toddler strapped to my chest while I shopped at the Walmart in Gatesville. On my way up the mountain I was passed by not one but two men who were climbing to celebrate — or maybe defy — their 65th birthdays. These men did not know each other until I arrived, huffing and puffing, at the top and introduced them.

Besides being a place to meet a stranger who was born the exact same day you were, Guadalupe Peak is an excellent choice if you want to feel the kind of wow moment that punches you in the gut. Of course there are the 14ers in Colorado, there’s Kilimanjaro and Everest — you aren’t literally on top of the world, but you get to feel like it. And when you are taking in the view with your head reaching to the clouds while the wind whips all around, it’s hard to imagine that out there somewhere are the mundane details — grocery lists, toddler tantrums — that fill your everyday. With such elevation it’s also nearly impossible to contemplate that this whole view was, at one point, completely underwater. Yes, 265 million years ago is a point long, long ago. But scientists believe it to be true.

Now I don’t know much about fossils. I can’t spot signs of reef formations. Sometimes when I look at wind farms in the distance I see arms of aliens turning in the breeze, but otherwise rock is rock, mountain is mountain. However, I have sat on the top of that particular mountain peak listening to the howl of the wind. I have wondered what the sound would have been of that water slowly — oh, so slowly — pulling away to reveal just one impossibly small millimeter of rock. Then another. And another. A change so slow you could never see it, but I like to imagine you could hear it, the shoosh, shoosh, shoosh of the ocean.

If someone proposed this idea, say you were at Walmart waiting for people in front of you to purchase ammo and ice cream, and someone turned to you and said, “Did you know someday what’s at the bottom of the ocean will be at the top of the sky?” Oh wouldn’t you roll your eyes? It’s an easier idea to cling to when you are climbing a mountain. Or standing next to an ocean. Or searching for a wow moment in any place that rings the holy bells for your heart. But it’s true. At one point in time the tallest mountain in Texas was underwater. At one point in time two babies were born. At another point in time the 65-year-old men who used to be those babies stood on a mountain and shook hands. At yet another point in time a nameless woman stood in a checkout line with a toddler strapped to her chest feeling the shoosh, shoosh, shoosh of the child’s heartbeat against her. She had thought she was waiting in line, just wading through the mundane, but she realized, even then, great change was happening. All she could think was wow.

Join the Conversation