Climb a Mountain, Turn Around
I have been fortunate this summer to have spent some quality time on vacation. Where I’ve been? All over- a couple places in Florida (my hometown and Orlando), upstate Georgia, and now upstate New York. Both my upstate trips have been to quiet houses in the woods. This being the exact opposite of the concrete jungle, it has been exactly what I need.
There are trees EVERYWHERE. There is always a lake just around the bend. There are a million billion stars in the sky. Doing a task as small as making morning coffee becomes a sacred ritual. And as the house begins to rise, you are greeted by faces (somewhat bleary until they, too, have had their morning coffee) warm and familiar, with whom you will spend the day, boating, hiking, or sitting by the fire.
And even better, both of the upstates have mountains! These are romanticized heavily by Floridians, along with snowstorms and electric blankets. And being the adventurous spirits we are, on boh occasions my parties decided to hike up said mountains.
It had been an awfully long time since I had gone back into that kind of wilderness. I had nearly forgotten that as a child, my dad used to take me and my sis to Moccasin Lake Park, where we would walk as quietly as possible, waiting for him to point out a spider or an armadillo along the path.
I realized that hiking itself was something I had been romanticizing too. There are incredible woods all around, but if it’s any kind of challenging hike, there are roots and limbs and rocks on the ground, all of which need to be stepped over or around with care. So it’s not really about gawking with your neck craned upward like a tourist in Times Square. The only way to really climb a mountain is one foot in front of the other, to watch where you are going even though you aren’t quite sure where you will end up.
You slip and fall (well, if you are me), and you might lose your confidence for a while, nervous and unsure. But stepping with certainty actually gives you the best chance of staying safe, no matter how many spills you have taken. You have to climb 600 stairs or scramble up steep and slick rock face for half a mile, and you’re not sure whether you’re really capable of doing either.
But eventually you reach the tippy-tippy-top. King of the Mountain. And the land in all its beautiful upstate-ness is laid out before you like a beautiful banquet. “I climb mountains to get perspective,” one of my fellow travelers said. “From here all my little problems seem so small.” Amen. Not only are our problems tiny, but we realize how free we truly are to walk away from them. You’re at the top of the mountain, and you could walk down the other side and just keep on going. If you wanted to. If you needed to.
Most of the time, we arrive at the top and take a rest, which is exactly what we have needed. A rest from our cares and woes. And when we have rested, we are ready to go back down the mountain the way we came. Reaching the top of the mountain feels the way it does because of how far we have come. The view is breathtaking, but few of us are ready to set up camp and stay forever. Of our own accord, we clamber back down the mountain.
Arriving at the peak only means what it does because of how far we have come. It is all the struggles and stops in between that make the journey worthwhile.