Mountain, Tree, What Do You See?

I had something totally different half-planned for today, but sometimes you have to ride the wave to something else.

“What do you see in your mind?” Someone asked me today. “When you’re feeling good. When you’re feeling strong.” She told me she sees a tree. She didn’t even have to get into the deep roots and the sturdy stances. It was about how hurricanes and other storms come and go, but still the trees can stand. And yet, a bad wind or a freaky Thanksgiving snowstorm can break those trees with a snap of the fingers. Microbursts and tornadoes pass through. Some trees are no match for so many forces.

mental health

mental health

I said I see a mountain. I always have. Mental health has always been about mountains for me, since the time I woke up from a bad dream when I was three-years-old in which a mountain was rising out of the ground and coming for me too fast. I was in the air, of course, and it was looking to knock me back to the earth. I got out of bed and got my father and he read me a Getalong Gang book until I drifted off to a scary-mountain-less sleep. I became in awe of mountains, and never again in fear. I was always afraid of around and around, but never of firmly up and down. I was always just a bit afraid of tides and currents and being pulled under, but I learned not to be afraid of being pulled up. That’s one of the last memories I have of him.

He made me unafraid of mountains, but unfortunately not of many other things.

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(Isn’t this photo of my mom and father in Nantucket just stunning?)

People ask me a lot if I prefer the ocean or the mountains. I always say mountains, but I like that there can be both at once. It’s just what I always picture, no matter what. When I close my eyes at night, I check to see that it’s still there for me. Since that night. If I picture strength and beauty. Solitude and growth. I see that same mountain, but it’s slowed down in my mind.

It’s grounded and grounding, and not rising too fast.

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It’s ancient and timeless. The trees that make up the mountains are the ones that come and go. And they do fall to hurricanes or avalanches, but the mountain still stands. That’s the way I see my mountain. Sometimes it’s so covered in fog that I can’t see it at all, save for just a bit. The tip? Sometimes I can’t even see that little bit. I just hope it’s there. I just know.

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Even when it seems as far away as The Alps. Even when I suffer in a silent fog and I can’t see all around me. Other days, other months, other years – it’s just there. It’s sharp. It’s clear. It’s telling me it was always there all along. I didn’t look enough.

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I couldn’t see it today, barely at all, but I could describe it in perfect detail because I know it’s there. Behind me. Within me.

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It’s a bit up and down, as if mountains really do move that way, in any way faster than over millions of years.

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Sometimes you just have to hold on and reach out, just to be able to see your inner mountain.

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I’ve been so afraid this week, as if things are spiraling out of control.

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Work and money and disease and love and new connections and upcoming trips and holidays and fear. I feel very ill-prepared. Plane rides and new friends and desire and boredom and chocolate.. too much chocolate.. and feeling tired and cold.

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Somewhere inside, I know that mountain is still there.

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That’s what I see when I think about my inner strength. I see a mountain.

That’s my short answer, anyway.

Close your eyes and think about your inner strength. What comes to mind? What do you see?

About Tamara

Tamara is a professional photographer, a mama of two, a Lifestyle Blogger/Social Media Influencer/Brand Ambassador, and a nearly professional cookie taster. She has been known to be all four of those things at all hours of the day and night. She is a very proud contributor to the book, The Mother Of All Meltdowns, the Stigma Fighters Anthology (volume 1), and The HerStories Project: So Glad They Told Me. She is also a proud Community Lead and a regular contributor to the SoFab Food blog, and the Target Made Me Do It blog. After two cross country moves, due to her intense Bi-Coastal Disorder, she lives with her husband, daughter, son, dog, cat, and 11 chickens in glorious western Massachusetts.


Mountain, Tree, What Do You See? — 118 Comments

  1. I love what you see when you think of mountains and can very much get your response. For me, I am a beach girl all the way, but this is more just out of my love for all things summer, but still I get it completely my friend and absolutely beautiful response.

  2. I don’t remember that story about you and your father but I love it! I do remember when he got in the bunk bed with you. Do you? And how he sat on our front porch and watched you dream?

    • It was probably one of the few times that he soothed me instead of you late at night! Such a memory.
      I do remember him getting in the bunkbed and I do remember the front porch.

  3. Being from the Caribbean I see mountains and its my safe place. My mom’s house faces a mountain and I’ll take a photo just for you when I get there in a week. What’s funny is that Colorado is very mountainous but I think it’s also the ocean. There’s none here so in a way I guess it’s a bit of both. I totally get where you’re coming from throughout this.

  4. I enjoyed this blog very much Tamara. Like you I like knowing we can have the ocean, and the mountains at once. I would have to choose the strong and majestic mountains too. In the most severe elements they are steady pillars of strength. My inner strength may be my patience. It’s a nice little blend of mountain strong and ocean deep.

  5. The ocean and mountains at once – a dream… Didn’t you say you lived in SFO? There you have it both pretty close ๐Ÿ™‚ I am sure there are other places. Like you say, the Alps are not too far from the ocean, Mediterranean either. It is good to have a solid foundation, your inner strength, your mountain – of family and friends. It may not always be visible, but it is there.

  6. I see the ocean. I love your images of the gorgeous mountains though. They’re beauty and awe inspiring omnipresence cannot be denied. I live near both the ocean and the mountains so I feel blessed. It’s all happening at once, isn’t it? It’s an overwhelming time of year. Take it one day at a time and live in the moment. What beautiful photos you’ve shared. I love the one of you and hubby. Is that in Nevada?

    • That photo was actually taken in Yosemite! we went there during the time we were getting back together. We thought it would help to sort out our relationship with us.
      I think my favorite thing really is that you can have both mountains and ocean where you live. And truly I love the ocean.

  7. My inner strength is a GIRAFFE LION DINOSAUR! Sure I have my days, my weeks of sadness, anger, depression, but OVERALL I AM A GIRLIOSAUR!!!!

    PS: It’s still Dec 9th here… You’re living in the future because this post says it was posted December 10th! Trippy!

    • Don’t tell anyone but there is something wrong with my time clock. And you are three hours behind me. But there’s also something wrong with my time clock. I never changed it during all of the time changes.
      You go, Girliosaur!

  8. This was absolutely AWESOME, Tamara! You are a bit hard on yourself sometimes from my perspective when I see/hear/read such a strong woman who conquers her mountain every day! It’s always inspirational to me, my dear. I’ve worked on visualization techniques (actually since high school) but much more so the last 20 years to battle insomnia. There are two happy places I attempt to actually “BE” at – Mt Lola (it’s a mountain 30 miles north of Lake Tahoe that I’ve snowmobiled to the top of). The other is Pt Reyes north of San Francisco…there is a rock outcropping that you can hike to off to the side of one of the beaches that is beyond amazing to just sit and chill and watch the enormous waves. Anyhoo…loved this, have a great day and you will be amazing always at your upcoming tasks the next couple of weeks! ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. I always see air and breathing. Nice, rhythmic breathing. I usually need to be calm to be strong so that’s what I think of first. Luckily I don’t have to show a picture of that because it would be difficult!! I do love that picture of your parents. So authentic and lovely, just like this post. I love it.

    • Air and breathing. I love that! And rhythmic breathing is a healing practice used in so many walks of life. Birth and pain management and anxiety and nausea. So it seems to me that it would make you very balanced!

  10. This is beautiful. I’m so glad you have that special memory of your father. What an important piece of your life.

    I see a mountain, too. Strong and tall, covered in trees, with a small cabin nestled in a safe spot.

    • Ooh, a nestled small cabin!
      That sounds wonderful.
      Since I don’t have a lot of memories of him, the ones I have definitely stand out. other one I have is of my father correcting my grammar. And I grew up to be a journalism major!

  11. I always have trouble feeling grounded this time of year. There is so much going on and so much pressure to make every single moment full of lifelong memories. It’s just too much! I hope you find your mountain again and are able to enjoy the season!

    • December is a bit much, isn’t it? I remember it just been nonstop excitement when I was a kid. I never had to really think about all the things I wanted to accomplish.

  12. I believe that THIS is my favorite post of yours EVER. I am in awe of your words, your insight and your beautiful and bold and so eloquent honesty. Oh T…. THIS. This is the best writing I have read in a long long time.

    Thank you for this gift- of you. Your precious view of the mountain within and the ability to share it so poignantly so that we ALL can feel and see it too.

    “I said I see a mountain. I always have. Mental health has always been about mountains for me, since the time I woke up from a bad dream when I was three-years-old in which a mountain was rising out of the ground and coming for me too fast. I was in the air, of course, and it was looking to knock me back to the earth. I got out of bed and got my father and he read me a Getalong Gang book until I drifted off to a scary-mountain-less sleep. I became in awe of mountains, and never again in fear. I was always afraid of around and around, but never of firmly up and down. I was always just a bit afraid of tides and currents and being pulled under, but I learned not to be afraid of being pulled up. Thatโ€™s one of the last memories I have of him.”

    Breath escapes me when I read that…

    • As you know, this was one of the ones I doubted. I didn’t publish it with my usual confidence. I almost didn’t even share it on Facebook like I usually do with posts, because I thought it wasn’t worthy. So your words mean $1 million!

  13. Great post!

    When I think of mountains I think of Busch Beer, and that makes me think of my white trash family together for a celebration, and it makes me happy. Lol.

    I hope you find peace with your upcoming busy schedule. Don’t let it all get to you, girl. One thing at a time. Happy Holidays.

  14. Oh I hope you find your mountain today. This time of year is so hectic for most people. My inner strength comes from water. I love being near the ocean and water.My dream is to live near the beach one day. There is just something so peaceful and calm about it to me. Every storm eventually subsides and the feeling of being in it when it is gently flowing is calming.

  15. I am sorry to hear this week has been tough. I hope you can find that mountain that will help. I think the Holidays are such a tough time on us Moms. So much for us to do and so many expectations. Hugs my friend, I’ll be thinking of you and sending lots of good thoughts your way!

  16. No question that my strength is Christ. The steadfast, constant, unchanging love of God come to earth – Emmanuel. Second image is probably the beach, which isn’t exactly a steady and solid place like a mountain, but definitely a happy place. Additionally, I have to say that I don’t think that you can have too much chocolate. Chocolate is always good. I always keep it in abundance for those blurry days:)

    • That’s really awesome. Thank you for sharing!
      I met a friend at a candy store recently and I bought myself a half pound of fine chocolates. I don’t imagine that I will go through it quickly, but it’s so nice to have that little secret in my desk drawer. Fine chocolates!

  17. Wow I love this. I don’t know if I can picture anything when I think of inner strength. Probably because I’ve never really sat down to THINK of my inner strength before. This week has been rough for me too (and it’s only Wednesday, I know), and I’ve been wondering if I actually had that inner strength, and if I did, why there didn’t seem to be any way that I could find it. I think maybe mine would be sunrises. Because no matter what happens the day before, no matter how many winds have made you beaten and bruised, the sunrise is new every morning. Someone posted on Facebook an Anne of Green Gables quote – “Tomorrow is always fresh, with no mistakes in it yet.” Even on days like yesterday and the day before when I don’t want to get out of bed, I try to remember that, because today getting out of bed was a little bit easier. Small victories, right? And huge mountains.

    • I love to think about the fact that sunrises are every day. And every morning is fresh. When I am going through rough times – either physically or emotionally, it’s always worst at night and best in the morning. Just.. fresh. A clean slate for sure. Anything is possible.

  18. This is a great post, Tamara. You really made me think. What IS my inner strength? I’ve felt pretty weak these days… all the obligations start to pile up and I just want to hide! Maybe my inner strength is sleep? =) Really, though, I know what it is. It’s my faith. I know that I don’t have the strength to do everything on my own, and that’s okay — I don’t have to DO anything to be fully loved by God. The important thing is remembering that!

    • I’ve felt weak too. Nothing is seriously wrong and many things are going quite well, but just some bad news last week made it topple over a bit. I have always had a certain fire within me. Keeps me going. It’s hard to find right now.

    • HAHA! Well hey. Target is a happy place. Honestly after Des was born and in the NICU and then we were all sick for two weeks, I said to Cassidy, “I haven’t been to Target in a month. I know that going there will make me feel like life is ok.. and almost normal.”
      And it did.

  19. Very interesting! I love all the photos of mountains that accompanied this post. Majestic. I love water but I’m starting to love mountains too ;). Never gave much though to who or what my strength comes from…

  20. Love this Tamara!

    I love the mountains. Unfortunately the Rockies are a 4 hour drive away from us. We used to go there every year but haven’t for the past three years. I’ve been begging my husband to go because their beauty and majesty is so… humbling.

    Funny when you ask where my strength comes from, I closed my eyes and saw fire. That’s something I would have never said – I would have thought a mountain or a tree… but not fire. Although Moses talked to God in the form of a burning bush, so maybe I shouldn’t be so dismissive of it.

    Thanks for sharing your beautiful pictures and your glorious words.

    Wishing you a lovely day.

    • Ooh, the Rockies!! I went through a portion of them in the west. So. Intense. Honestly, the mountains around here leave me wanting more. Our highest is in New Hampshire and it’s quite nice, actually.
      I see fire sometimes too. I’m a fire sign and I like the image of having a fire within you – always burning and always strong.

  21. I’m sorry it’s been tough for you lately – your FB posts are usually upbeat, so it surprised me when you wrote that. I’m not much of a visualizer, so I’m not sure what I see my inner strength as. It would definitely be a mountain before the ocean, but it may not be nature at all. You’ve got me thinking now, Tamara…

    • The posts have been a bit complainy this week, but you’re right! I just got some bad news last week and it’s hard to recover from it. It sets up my anxiety a bit.

  22. Hmmmm . . . . My inner strength?? I’m not sure what I see. I see the ocean when I think about inner peace, but not sure I have ever really thought much about inner strength. I like your mountain, though – tall, powerful, and rising up -I can see that . I’m sorry you’ve been struggling lately. I know mine is different from yours, but this holiday season has just been blah for me. I’ve been so stressed and so exhausted. I feel like I’m missing all the happy I could be getting from this time of year. There are brighter, happier days ahead, I hope!! Hugs!

    • I used to visualize the ocean a lot when I wanted peace. Now I have an app that actually plays the sounds of the San Francisco bay! Totally cool.
      This holiday season is weird.. and only two weeks away from being mostly done. Strange!

  23. Huh, I’m stumped as to what I see when I think of my inner strength. But then again, I can’t really concentrate right now as Sam is talking to his parents loudly on speakerphone with his parents in Russian. I can’t understand what they’re saying (except for a word here and there), but it’s making it hard to think! I love your imagery, though, both through your words and images. I think a mountain does seem to very well symbolize inner strength.

    And that is a stunning photo of your parents. I could’t help but look at it for a minute.

  24. I think of my faith in God when I think about my inner strength.When I’m feeling feeling sad or anxious reading the Bible or listening to gospel music helps.

  25. I have been working so hard on strength – I know that I’m stronger than I think I am. I love the ocean and it is a calming place for me. But I love the idea of a mountain representing strength – and maybe my anxiety is a big mountain that I need to climb and conquer. Hmm.. great post, and as usual I love the photos. You’re right, that one of your parents is very special.

  26. I agree with everyone else- you’ve made us all think! I’m not sure what my answer would be, though I see how both trees and mountains make sense. I’m sorry you received some unwanted news and hope you’re in a bit of a better place tonight. Wonderful pictures you chose as an accompaniment.
    (The title made me think of ‘Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See’, the kids’ book)

  27. I do really think the picture of your mom and dad is so beautiful! And I love the one with you and Cassidy, too. Your hat! The color and the style is so cute. ๐Ÿ™‚ Mountains in your world look gorgeous! I really did close my eyes at the end and the only thing on my brain these days that makes me think of inner strength is birth believe it or not. And how funny that as I’m writing this comment the show my husband has on said the name that we are thinking of naming our son if we have a boy. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • I can understand that. I felt so powerful after both births that the strength sustained me for years after.
      It’s sort of wearing off and I need something new! But probably not another birth.

  28. Oh Sweet T! We exchanged words briefly yesterday & I’m just now reading… sorry! My strength is my baby girl’s big blue eyes & her compassion. I am so happy I have raised her with such confidence & southern charm. When life becomes too intense, Kens simply is her & that love & compassion lets me know I can get through it!! (I struggle daily though) โ™ฅ u Sweet T!

  29. It makes perfect sense that you are feeling this now especially – with so much spiraling for many of us. It’s overwhelming what we have to accomplish in December. I do find peace in mountains as well, and when things feel out of control I reign it in with lists, positive self talk and just try to stay present. Beautiful post and the pictures coupled with the words move me – I hope your inner strength kicks in and brings back your lovely smile!

    • Thank you! And December is just a little weird. Right now we have terribly lousy weather and Christmas is still a couple weeks off. All this tension needs to build to something good!

  30. LOVE this! For me I at one time would have said the beach, like the serene beaches at sunset in Hawaii. However, after having kids and going on beach vacations and now also going on ski vacations and hiking vacations…I would also have to say the mountains. But I never want to be caught on one in a storm.

  31. This reminded me of the Dr. Seuss book that ends with, “hey kid, you’ll move mountains!” I think he was speaking to you:-)

    And great question with the visualization…I think for me it would be the view outside my window, currently. I think it represents what I’ve worked really hard to get to up until this point in my life, but also represents possibility for the future.

  32. I love how you build inner strength by visualizing mountains. My home is surrounded by mountains and when I feel overwhelmed it is nice to gaze at the sunset or sunrise that illuminate the edges and take a breath and realize that it will be ok.

  33. I think it is amazing that the mountain is your strength, it shows truly how strong you are inside. How many mountains crumble? Very few. They stand fast and tall weathering all types of storms. But always there.

  34. I have never thought about what inner strength would look like to me, but I totally get the mountain metaphor and I love it. Especially the detail you went into describing it, I just kept thinking “yes, that!” BEAUTIFUL mountain photos.

  35. When I think of my inner strength, I imagine my feet firmly planted on the ground, just like in yoga. There’s a yoga pose(one of my favorites) that requires one to stand completely still, feet rooted to the ground, and you know what it’s called? The Mountain Pose. There is something in there, in your mountain inspiration.

  36. I love that you see a mountain. When I think of my inner strength, I see my mother. I know it sounds cliche, but I believe that most of my strength comes from her, what she fought through for us and what we fought through together,

    • Actually, that makes perfect sense and I do have a similar story. My mom has always been a pillar to me and it’s been almost hard over the years to recognize her struggles and pain. I know that sounds selfish but I was just a kid for so long..

  37. What a beautiful post!!! The strength and majesty of the mountain is so awesome – I love that you see mountains!!
    The pictures in this post might be some of my favorite ones of yours ever!

  38. Iโ€™m not sure I could think of a more beautiful image than the mountains you describe. It reminds me of being in college, surrounded by the blue ridge mountains. I never realized how much I loved those mountains until I left. The first image that comes to my mind of my strength is of my Husband. But truly, itโ€™s music that holds me up. Whether itโ€™s a punk rock anthem when Iโ€™m feeling angry or a soft hymn when Iโ€™m feeling prayerful. Music is always there.

    • Music is probably my strongest healing agent, actually. I think music helps me see my mountain. And I love those images of college for you. I was just telling my mother-in-law last week that I regret where I went to college because it was a very crime-filled and in the city and it was too big. I should’ve been on some small mountain campus somewhere.

  39. I think I would think of a mountain…. except of course, I don’t really have any near me. it’s not a frame of reference for me. And while I did grow up on big Lake Ontario — that’s not quite the ocean either. Although, very nice lake. But what I do have, is TREES. Tons of trees.
    I wrote a post about the secret of trees this past year and it’s one of my favourite posts. Trees are silent sentinels of the past. All their secrets are sealed up inside in rings, and they grow strong around them. each year adding another circle of strength. They can bend and sway with the strongest of breezes. They can stand alone, or gather for strength. And, even if the tree falls – the rings may still be there holding on to their story. Or maybe some will seep out, while other stays locked inside. Most of all, a tree gives life. It expels good things back into our world. When it dies, it gives back to our earth — and the cycle goes ever on. If that’s not strength, I don’t know what else is.

    • Trees are amazing. I didn’t even mean to downplay them, but it was more of a free writing exercise. My house is surrounded by trees. I wish you could see them. I guess you see them in photos.
      I remember the first time I saw Lake Ontario. You could not have convinced me that it wasn’t the ocean! I remember eating an ice cream bar and just staring at it.

      • what really amazed my when I was little, that where I grew up, there are spots where you can see USA from our side of Lake Ontario – and being so amazed!! Like – that’s a WHOLE other country over there!! That’s AMERICA!! LOL And you could literally row in a row boat over and step foot on USA soil. It’s still amazing to this day to think of that unprotected border between us.
        And then there’s also the memories of watching big yachts and tall ships out on the bay and thinking this is one big frickin lake.

  40. I never gave much thought to mountains, I drove through North Carolina last year and my thoughts were, amazement, wonder, and beauty. I read your post, and now, I’m in love with mountains, their strength and their tie to your memory of your father. Love.
    I love mountains, and I love that you have that sweet memory of your dad.
    I’m wishing you strength always <3

    • I don’t think I’ve ever seen the mountains of North Carolina but I’ve heard they are so amazing. And Tennessee. And a lot of other places! The most amazing mountain I ever saw was in Oregon.

  41. Oh you made me think really hard! What is my strength? My abilty to withstand pain? Not the physical pain but the ones that can rock your core. One that makes you wonder just how much pain one can hold. Sea it is for me then. Awesome writing!

  42. When I think of my inner strength, it’s like a storm. But a storm is sometimes unpredictable. It could hit with abandon, it could dissipate, or anything in between. Either way, it’s going to hit, and what happens happens.

    Sometimes, I wish it was something more tranquil or reliable! But at least it’s strength.

  43. “Work and money and disease and love and new connections and upcoming trips and holidays and fear. I feel very ill-prepared. Plane rides and new friends and desire and boredom and chocolate.. too much chocolate.. and feeling tired and cold.” — WOW this sounds just like me talking to myself.

    Honestly, when I think of something to represent my inner strength, I’m blank. I guess I just don’t know what it is or maybe there’s a lot that I couldn’t identify it. Is that possible? BUT I know I have this inner strength and I’m thankful I have it.

  44. I love mountains as a symbol of strength. I often think of mountains as well when I think of inner strength. But I tend to go straight to the big, vast powerful ocean. That’s my inner strength, serenity, happy place…everything. I guess that’s why I live in Maine. I get to be near both!

  45. I love your words as much as I love your photography.

    Right now, in this moment, my symbol of strength is my C-section scar. I’ve thought about it a lot recently because I’ve got through so many body image issues since having my child. I’ve finally reached a good place and my C-section scar, to me, resembles what I’ve been through. It shows my strength of getting through a tough surgery and healing, as well as why I struggled with body image and now it shows my strength of overcoming all of those problems.

    Thanks for stop and making me think!

    • Well that means a lot because I love doing photography and I love doing writing and I could never choose.

      I don’t have that kind of scar, but I still have these tiny silver stretch marks just around my belly button. No one else would even know they are there, but I always will.

  46. I love mountains. And trees. And Oceans. But in the opposite order…I think…I don’t know. But even though I want to say trees are my go-to peaceful center, the ocean knows how to silence me like nothing else.

    Your mountains are special. Even from how they became special, yes that photo is stunning.

    And I love that mountains are a reoccurring theme in your life. You are a mountain! And your pictures are amazing.

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