Mountain Sculpting

Crazy Horse Memorial

The Crazy Horse Memorial is a mountain sculpture in the Black Hills of South Dakota. It was started in 1948 and is far from finished. The generations long project will be, if completed, the world’s largest sculpture. But I wonder, if the man who helped start the project, Korczak Ziolkowski, is anything like me. I wonder if a vision of the mountain’s potential kept him up at night and if his mind wandered down every possible path to completion. Did he lay out a plan? Did he worry about money or the ache accumulating between his shoulders? Did he see the end, or the next days work, or somewhere in between?

 If I were the sculptor it would be hard for me to see the mountain as it is and not as its potential image just as it is difficult for me to accept myself as I am and not as I’d like to be. My mind races ahead of today. I look into the future. I feel like I can see the infinite universes my choices could lead to. I am overwhelmed by what I don’t know. The options, the work involved to reach the final step. (The list is long: finishing school, applying to grad school, studying writing or art therapy, my relationship with L and my impatience with the process involved in building trust,  my Air bnb business ventures, and finding an affordable place to “crash”,  tiny houses, and clothing lines, and novels, and art, and spiritual practice.) This journey is long. Thousands of miles. It is the breadth of my life. I can’t stop my thoughts from reaching towards the end, towards tomorrow. Be still. Be still and know. Be still and know that I am….

How to remain in the minute. Some techniques. I only know one.

L says to to breathe. In fact, most spiritual practices say “breathe.” It is the main tenet of mindfulness. And it makes sense.  A return to the body. The body cannot run to the future. Only the mind can make that leap to worry. Though thoughts like these can bring the worry of the future back to the body as stress, and what L calls “density.”

I lay awake last night with thoughts just rolling. Anxieties accumulating like planets aggregating. The dark does this – gathers the dust of the days into heavy orbs of “what will become of us all?” – I took a breath. It kind of worked. Only the first of thousands though. I focused on the how the air in the room I was in (not the room of the future) felt as it entered my nostrils and how it felt as it shushed out of me. Here I am. Here I am.

Then I began to worry that I would forget my goals. In this One breath. In the dark, calm reality confuses itself with laziness. At this rate –breathing, and melding into the moment – I might not find my way out. I worried that I would forget myself forever into the void of the eternal “Now.” How can I have both goals and peace? How can I retain an image of a future that motivates me and the calm of the immediate air and quality of light. A phrase from Goethe struck me then on N’s red couch at midnight on a Wednesday. Do not hurry. Do not rest. I breath in – do not hurry. I breath out – do not rest. 

Still there is so much to do! However, I understand (almost) that there is no rush to complete anything. Slow as breathing, one step, one day, one idea at a time. I can carve into the mountain of myself and my life in this physical moment, the image I see when I look into the future. Like Crazy Horse I am far from finished, and may never be. Still, the point is the project, not the end result. I am not here to be looked at as a perfect example of personhood. I am here to be worked on, carved, chiseled and blown to pieces. I am here to learn and to teach. I am here to live, so that at the end of my life, maybe the finished product can inspire future daunting projects. Still, I’m glad “sculpt a mountain” isn’t on my list of things to get done.



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