To think like a mountain

On the mountains there is freedom! The world is perfect everywhere Save where man comes with his torment. Schiller, ''The Bride of Messina,'' 1803

I'm sitting far below them in a still meadow. On the rocky pinnacle of Indian Mountain, four or five exuberant youths make lots of noise - talking, shouting, laughing. Their distant cries shatter the late afternoon quiet of a remote mountain area near Fairplay, Colo.

They are faraway specks, but at least two of them are wearing white and I can see them leaping about the ridge, now and then outlining themselves against the bright blue sky.

Not content to savor what is, they start rolling and hurling large boulders down the mountainside. I am reminded of the words of the old Wintu woman who lamented, ''When we burn grass for grasshoppers, we don't ruin things. We shake down acorns and pine nuts. But the white people plow up the ground, pull down trees, kill everything. . . . They blast rocks and scatter them on the ground. . . . How can the Spirit of the Earth like the white man? Everywhere the white man has touched it, it is sore.''

Staunch defenders of our ancestry might point out that it is characteristic of Occidental man to move mountains. William Blake used that metaphor in ''Epigrams'': ''Great things are done when men and mountains meet.''

Nevertheless, in a very literal sense, there are times when it behooves us not to make molehills of mountains, for they, too, have a right to be.

Another rock thunders down the cliff and echoes through the valleys. This time even the sun hides behind a cloud. Likewise, I find it hard to look Indian Mountain in the eye. In my mind I hear Aldo Leopold's plea, ''Help us to think like a mountain.''

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