Among Mountains

I. “When Life Gives You Lemons…”

Make Lemonade.

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to help my mom–she told me that I could write–an article about our family, our ancestry, and including any tidbit of information behind immigrating from Tyrol to America.

The magazine, Filo, which is a quarterly magazine for Tyrolean Americans, gave me the A-OK to write this. To visit the magazine’s website, please follow the link in the previous paragraph. The editor of the magazine, Mr. Lou Brunelli, seemed very pleased that this third generation of Tyrolean Americans wanted to contribute. He told me that this will be submitted in the following issue if not this one.

The title of this post can be taken in the actual and literal sense, metaphorically or true to the simple two words. Mountains are geographical amazements, or they can symbolize history and legend. I know that my family would be proud of this simple little segment. However, I know they would be grateful if I continue to write/submit to the magazine, and I already have a second vignette started. We’ll see what happens.

These photographs featured in here are my own, and I have blanketed them in black and white. I’m not trying to be the next Ansel Adams, but I appreciate him enough to emulate his perfection.

The following is a draft. It’s raw. It’s not published. Whatever happens with this article, I want to be clear that Filo magazine technically holds this in its hands, or pages for that matter.

II. Filo Draft: The Scaias

Throughout the years, throughout my growing up to present, there has been a black-and-white photograph that has hung in my parents’ kitchen. The landscape, the mountain range landscape sticks out amongst the other pictures and decorations distinctively. That picture is of Scaia Mountain, which resides in the Canadian province of British Columbia, has been a conversation piece for family and friends.

One doesn’t truly appreciate ancestry when they are children. All I knew about my maternal side of the family was that we came from the northern part of Italy, which was once a part of Austria before the time of war. As years passed, after my family immigrated to the United States, the historical knowledge of my family was more compact. My asking about that picture, why we had a two-toned, framed landscape hanging in the kitchen, always had the same response: that’s Scaia Mountain. My ears perked up with interest, and I asked if it was named after our family.

The five Scaia brothers emigrated from Tyrol region of Austria that is now northern Italy. They left their serene village of Prezzo and ventured to England before settling in Solvay, New York. Unlike many who immigrated to Solvay, individuals who settled in the village worked at the soda ash plant, Solvay Process, the Scaia brothers left Solvay in different directions. Domenico, my great-great-grandfather returned to Tyrol to live. Adam and Louis traveled to the Canadian province, British Columbia, in 1893. Adam has a mountain named after him located in the Arrow Lake country near Nakusp, British Columbia. Barto joined his two brothers in 1911.

While living in British Columbia, the three brothers farmed and mined for gold. Gusto ventured to Alaska to mine the gold fields in 1989; he made money mining, but lost most of what he had made in his ventures. He remained in Alaska as a small store owner, postmaster, and justice of the peace.

It’s fascinating and heartwarming that these brothers were born and raised in the Condine Valley area in Tyrol. The area is made up of beautiful mountains, deep valleys, and crystal blue bodies of water. To say the landscape is breathtaking does not do it justice. Having visited Condine three years ago, I can only imagine the difficulty behind deciding to leave for the United States and Canada. Although, the Scaia brothers settled in different regions around the world, generating some stir and unanswered questions as to why they did not return to Solvay, New York, there was legitimate rationale behind their decision. Being in Alaska and British Columbia, the scenic views are comparable to Tyrol—the hills and mountains overlooking pristine bodies of water. It was said that those who traveled this far had a difficult time returning to where they came from. It was clear: this was a home away from home.

(The picture above was not taken by me. It is the picture of Scaia Mountain that my family has hanging in the kitchen)

III. From Here On Out

So, that is that. That’s my raw first creation (and hopefully not my last!) for Filo. Of course, looking through old newspapers and articles, reviewing photographs, the process was touching. It left me wanting to know more. However, my (great-great-great) Uncle Gusto never truly got back to my Great Aunt Amelia. She had sent him letters, telling him that the family missed him, and she asked when he would return to Solvay.

Gusto never had.

The Alaskan newspaper which covered a story about these letters explained one interesting notion mentioned in my draft. Those individuals who travel to Alaska–we can mention British Columbia as well–they don’t want to return to where they come from.

Maybe it is man(kind)’s call to nature? Maybe it’s the beauty of the rolling hills and mountain ranges? It could definitely be a combination of the two. Let’s not leave out the personal interest of those individuals who travel there. I am not throwing my cousin Gary (my paternal side of the family) under the bus, but he’s been in Alaska for a good amount of time. Not have I heard anything about his coming back into the mainland. It’s not a bad thing, because–although, I have not–his living there gives me a reason to travel to Alaska.

I’m just scared that I wouldn’t want to return. I know myself all to well, and basking in environment is all too appealing. I watch movies, documentaries, and see photographs of places I have been or want to visit; these choke me up, leaving me wanting to pack my bags and get the hell out of Syracuse. The world is way too large, and Syracuse–sorry to say–is beginning to feel way too small. A goldfish will grow to the size of it’s container, which leaves me wanting to get out.

IV. Into the Wild

Jon Krakauer wrote a book called Into the Wild, which researched or tried to define the reasoning behind Christopher McCandless decision to live in Alaska’s wilderness, simply sheltered by an abandoned bus. With the combination of exposure and food options–or shall it be said a lack there of–McCandless’ body was later found.

When I read the book in college, it was absolutely mind blowing to me. Krackauer, who had originally wrote an article about this subject, ventured into the expansion of turning McCandless’ story into a book.

It’s the true call to adventure, something Joseph Campbell cannot explain the myth behind, comparing any sort of reference into his The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Fortunately, McCandless found his calling, which led to his demise. Would this describe his hubris or simply human fallibility.

If I remember correctly, in my post about The Grey, a fantastic movie if I do say so myself, which is entitled Sheep in Wolves’ Clothing, I touch upon the whole relationship dynamic in literature: man versus man, man versus nature, and man versus self. Of course, in this aspect, the essential call to the wild can be categorized with the supernatural, which doesn’t mean poltergeists or other scary things. The supernatural is something that we cannot grasp, nor will we understand, as much as we may think we do. That desire to be a part of what is without fully understanding why, the mystic revelation and acceptance, cannot be fully explained.

It’s probably better that way.

Lead us not into temptation? What if it is best for us?

V. Away From the Wild, or Afterthought

There is still a lot for me to adventure to. This world is far too big, and it’s a bit disappointing that I will not be able to see the majority of what there is to enjoy. However, the anticipation of What’s Next is always exciting. It keeps me going, especially around these parts. Although Syracuse isn’t that big of a place, there is a lot of adventure here. There are plenty of things to do–some multiple times–with a various amount of people. There are new places to enjoy and people to meet.

Syracuse is fantastic for right now. However, time will only tell…

3 thoughts on “Among Mountains

  1. Would like to contact Christopher Malone regarding Scaia family letters found by my family in Manley Hot Springs.

  2. Into The Wild seems to be a college prerequisite; it's a motivational gesture to a first-time-away-from-home mind, and it made many of my friends want to explore independence in adventure and cross-country travel. And isn't that so American? The traveler/adventurer road tripping and exploring the "unknown" is pretty exciting and romantic, and is perhaps–on another level–the manifestation of longing to be known, either being remembered for doing something accomplished or for discovering and understanding oneself. Both of these have alluring presentation, and Syracuse doesn't quite. My encouragement would be to go explore because there is much to be seen and enjoyed, but exploration is not a surrogate for self-fulfillment and I have tremendous respect for understanding the difference between wanderlust and the desire to simply be satisfied.

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