Home is where the mountain is

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 3, 2013

My mountain. I wish you could see it. Our view looks west across the glittering Las Vegas Valley. The southern tip of the Strip, with its hotels and casinos and flashing billboards, looms large 15 miles away.
On the far side of the valley, the Spring Mountains rise up like waking giants, flexing their granite muscles, daring you to try to cross them to California.
In the evenings, after a neon sunset, my husband and I like to sit on the patio watching the sky fill with jets circling the airport.
“Oh, look,” I say, “there comes another planeload of money.”
Sometimes, if we’re lucky, we hear coyotes singing in the dry gulch on the golf course. It’s a song that reminds us — despite our tinted-windowed cars and air-conditioned houses and artificially landscaped lives — that we, too, were born to live wild and free. We, too, like to howl at the moon. On occasion. Figuratively speaking.

I’m not sure when I began to think of Las Vegas as home. I never dreamed I’d live here. I never even wanted to visit. But sometimes life takes you places you never dreamed you’d go. And then, there you are with a choice to make: Like it or not.
So here we are. And we like it. A job change for my husband moved us to Vegas in 2006, a year after we were married.
When he proposed, he never mentioned relocating. I’d been a widow for seven years, living in the same house where I’d raised three children on the coast of California, a short walk to the beaches along Monterey Bay.
My desk was wedged in an upstairs bay window looking out on a basketball court that served as a gladiator arena for my kids, their friends and an assortment of dogs and cats. The action seldom stopped. But the distant view was blessedly more serene.
The house sat on the tip of the Monterey Peninsula with salt water on three sides. My window faced east, beyond the basketball court, across the blue bowl of Monterey Bay (we called its curve the Queen’s Necklace) to a small coastal range presided over by the queen: Mount Toro.
In spring, Mount Toro turned Land of Oz green. In summer, she was purest gold. In winter, she could be snowcapped.

I loved her. I’ve always had a thing for mountains. You could say they’re in my blood. I grew up on the border of North and South Carolina, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge, in the shadow of a mountain called Hogback.
I left Hogback when I grew up. But it never really left me. It has followed me all my life, showing up whenever I needed it — in the faces of other mountains, other times, other places, the coast of California, the campgrounds of Yosemite and now, much to my surprise, in the Mojave Desert outside Las Vegas, of all places.
I saw it again today through a brand-new bay window that my husband gave me for my birthday. He didn’t install it. There aren’t enough swear words in his vast vocabulary to cover window installation. He hired it done by a crew of men who did not swear at all.
The new window faces west toward California, through two tall palm trees that frame in fine symmetry the lights of the valley, Red Rock Canyon and a snow-covered Mount Charleston — with Hogback peeking over its shoulder. Maybe nobody else saw it. But I did.
We all see in different ways. My brother was born blind. He has never seen a mountain. But he smells rain, hears thunder, feels a warm Southern breeze on his neck and knows he is home.
We are imprinted, I believe, on a cellular level, by the geography of where we are born. The land where we play as a child leaves its mark like a brand on the soul. It causes us to feel a kinship to mountains or rivers or rocks or concrete that is as real and lasting as anything we will ever feel for flesh and blood.
For me, home is a mountain.

What is it for you?

Contact Sharon Randall at www.sharonrandall.com.