Wednesday, September 10, 2014
As a kid growing up in Salt Lake I had one particular mountain which fascinated me then as it does now. Mount Olympus stands higher than the other mountains. It overlooks the valley. I could see it from my back yard.
On one of those days where it looks like a movie backdrop and I was still working my school district job I was walking into a school down the hill from the mountain. I got there at the same time as the U.S. postal carrier. I noticed as we walked into the school both of us were looking backwards at the mountain. I gave her the short course of what I've just told you; I've spent over 50 years looking at that mountain. She said, succinctly, “It's why I moved back here from a life in the Midwest.” I haven’t seen her again, but that sounded about right. When I was in the Army in Germany at the time my father died, I came back for his funeral. From his gravesite where we gathered I had only to look over my right shoulder and there was Mount Olympus.
Until I sat down to write this I had never thought about the origin of the name Mount Olympus. Any of you classicists know that in Greek mythology Mount Olympus was the home of the gods. I wondered if the Mormon pioneers named the mountain, or if it had been named by fur trappers before the pioneers arrived. I'm sure the local native Americans who lived here at the time (specifically, the Utes), didn't call it Mount Olympus.
It would seem uncharacteristic for early Mormons to name a mountain after the home of mythological gods, but maybe not. Maybe when they looked at that mountain they saw something I see, something that transcends religion, but is in itself something monumentally spiritual. A mountain which, by looming over and watching us, seems as alive as any living thing I know.