I consider myself fairly well traveled for someone my age, having been to over 10 countries and about 30 states, but never in my life have I seen such a beautiful sight as I did this morning in the mountains of the French Alps.
Wrapping itself around the Lake of Geneva and bending with the curve of the Rhone River, the city of Geneva holds a certain charm that can only be found in historic European cities. Home to the jet d’eau, an immeasurable number of watch stores, and some of the most luxurious hotels in the world and surrounded by snowcapped mountains, Geneva is simply a beautiful city. But drive just 30 minutes into the mountains, and it’s something else entirely.
Every Sunday of my dad’s childhood in Geneva was spent with his family, which many times meant driving up into the mountains of France and Switzerland. After my dad showed us all of the other landmarks of his childhood (his apartment building, his school, even the boulangerie-patisserie that hasn’t changed at all), this trip wouldn’t have been complete without a drive up through the clouds onto the mountain peaks. And during the drive, I was like a little kid in front of a candy store with her nose pressed against the storefront glass with mine on the car window trying to take in every sight, every charming cottage, every falling leaf, every adorable town that passed in the blink of an eye. We drove higher than the clouds, and once we reached the top of the Salève mountain, we stepped out of the car into pure, crisp air gaping in awe at what lay before us.
It’s as if I were seeing for the first time. Above: brilliant blue sky and dazzling sun. Below: green valleys spotted with picturesque towns. And all around: snowcapped mountain peaks as far as the eye could see. Everything below looked miniature at that height, from the planes taking off out of the Geneva airport to the cars speeding along the quiet roads to the smoke curling out of the cottage chimneys. It’s sights like these that make you forget all your problems and be grateful to simply have the sense of sight. You forget about war, hatred, racism, all the cruelty of the world, and you see nothing but beauty. And then there are ridiculous standards of beauty set by each society, causing those who don’t fit the mold to feel ugly and ashamed, forcing us to correct every minor imperfection; yet here exists such natural beauty that should make us realize that true beauty comes from the most natural things in the world, including us, and maybe we shouldn’t worry so much about conforming to the societal mold of “beauty” as much as trying to find beauty in the natural way each of us looks.
Ultimately, no camera could capture the view, no painter could paint it, not even Monet would have done it justice, and I know that no matter what I write, words just can’t describe the liberating feeling of utter tranquility mixed with energizing wonder and total content from standing on that mountain peak with my parents and sister, breathing in the mountain air, and seeing a new world.