by Ken Rolheiser
I took a trip up Rolheiser Mountain

There is a line in the Rankin Family song “Gillis Mountain” that moves me to tears as I revisit my family roots and heritage.

The trip starts simply enough:

I took a trip up Gillis Mountain
On a sunny summer day
There were ruts in the road,
And the 4 wheel drive

Then it moves to that place: “Where our forefathers once made hay”. Then:
The Gillis's lived on the mountain
For about a hundred years
Where we picked berries, they cleared land
Spent their blood and sweat and tears
They spent their blood and sweat and tears.

And that is the line that gets me. It takes me back to the experience of sweat and tears and hard work. I remember a scorching day when my brother Ron and I were loading hay in a hay slough surrounded by trees. It was hot.

To try to make it tolerable I took off my shirt and continued forking hay on to the hay rack. That was a mistake. The dust settled on my skin, and with the sweat it started to itch. Add a few mosquitoes, and now there was no escape. Only heat and more discomfort.

Well we can revisit that metaphorical Mountain where our forefathers once made hay. They spent their blood and sweat and tears. I remember my father once getting stepped on by a horse when he tripped and fell as he was turning furrows in potato planting. There are other moments we can remember.

That journey back to our roots ends with a beautiful image in the Rankin song:
When we arrived on Gillis Mountain
You could see for miles in the light
The whitecaps on the sea of blue
Sparkled like diamonds in the night
They sparkled like diamonds in the night.

What a soulful journey back to the family mountain where we struggled, grew, loved and worshipped together. The lives of our parents and grandparents sparkle like diamonds in the night. It makes your soul sing:
And Oh oh oh, Rolheiser Mountain
Oh oh oh, Sparkled like diamonds in the night.

The childhood memories of walking with Mom and Dad; of “whinnying green stables” and “the legends of the green chapels”, if I can borrow Dylan Thomas’s images; “And the Sabbath rang slowly
/ In the pebbles of the holy streams.”

And that, good reader, is a kind place to stop. Enough to reflect on! And I need time to clear my eyes.

(417 words)