Marmots most closely resemble aquatic mammals. They lay on rocks in the sun, their fat cascading so far forward and shading their faces, it’s a wonder they can still see. And what do they consider? The endless beauty of the mountain valley below them? The fresh deposits of poop that they’ve left on every newly completed rock structure? The still unmolested high alpine flora that carpet the flanks of Mt. Columbia? Possibly. Over the past few months I have had the privilege of observing these great, lumbering alpine walruses as they scramble over rocks, fling their tails to and fro in a parody of grace and slowly disappear from sight, their plump little bodies disappearing into crevices that seem far too small for them.
Just last week I was working and happened to look up at just the right moment to see one of the most rotund land seals I’ve ever seen blissfully asleep on top of a rock facing my work, his paws hanging over the edge in a parody of attentiveness. They are the royal family of the Rock, the palace around which we have built steps. They live lives of struggle, but also incredible leisure and their dedication to comfort, to stuffing themselves full of the all the food they can possibly eat, then lounging in the sun; it’s very tempting.
I think that in the future whenever I am hiking a fourteener, I will never again make it to the summit out of choice. I will find the broadest, flattest stone and simply lay there. Occasionally rousing myself to gorge to the point of sickness on as much food as possible. Hike down when the sun goes away and head to bed early. That’s the best life. Whenever it’s cold and freezing hail is pounding down my neck, or a finger gets caught between a rock and a hard place, I think of the marmots. Warm in their den, rolling in self made parkas of the thickest fat, they are an example to us all.