Sometimes the adventure you intended to have fails to materialize. You set out for some distant peak with a pack full of all the right gear, plenty of daylight to reach the summit and return, and bluebird skies overlooking your path. And that’s not the adventure you end up having.
Maybe you end up—through prudence or providence—taking a side trail along well-trodden and well known paths and end up revisiting a different adventure, renewed after a long hiatus, and find that just because you have enjoyed a climb once or a thousand thousand times before that it’s no less enjoyable, or classic, or memorable. Being able to climb the same route time and time again should in no way diminish its inherent beauty and benefit.
That distant peak will always be there. There will be other bluebird days. Happiness exists everywhere, and the views from different peaks are all just as beautiful, just as vast, and worthy of taking if you can simply let yourself enjoy the moment.
There are many peaks I have listed in my life; geographic points to be visited and ticked off. Some are more terrible than others. And I mean “terrible” in the sense of completely overwhelming to the mind and senses. Mountaineers know what I mean. A peak can be wondrously beautiful but terrifying to behold. That’s the curse of being an alpinist. To gain certain summits requires a quest through the most tenuous and dangerous terrain. And maybe those peaks are the most coveted yet they sometimes exist as the eternal goal. Some people strive for that one summit their entire lives. It becomes their Everest.
The knight goes on the quest to slay the dragon, or hunt the unicorn, or rescue the damsel and he can put himself in peril of life and spirit. I’m not suggesting that it’s as noble to abandon or delay the quest as to continue on through storms and darkness. But to set out on the quest you immediately set yourself up for failure, not because you are weak but because the goal is difficult to attain. The mountaineer has the luxury over the knight in that he or she can exercise discretion and leave valor for another day. Some of us have the luxury of choosing. And maybe in that sense winning the goal is that much sweeter. It doesn’t have to come at the same cost.
Where am I going with this? Well, like writers of old this is an enigma wrapped up in a mystery J
A long time ago I wrote about roaming about in the mountains of my mind and this post seems like an extension of that imagery. There are peaks to be sought and peaks to be admired from afar maybe to be attempted later in life with more experience and grit. Between the peaks are endless valleys, canyons, and meadows to explore and enjoy. Not all good things are above treeline. Not every great experience has a sweeping vista.
The one thing common about mountain summits is that when you reach them there is nowhere else to go but down, and so to strive only for a lone peak will result in an empty life beyond. The experience must be of the landscape and not of the singular experience. There are so many varied and wonderful things to see in life.
The past two weeks have been interesting. It’s been a long high for me, and I feared the crash at the end. Truthfully I think it happened, and it was simply I needed to take an easy afternoon yesterday instead of pushing through and mowing the yard or doing laundry. My mind feels cleaner than it has in a long time.
Something else about high peaks: life does not thrive at altitude. It can exist, but it does not persist. A mountaineer needs to descend back below treeline to recupe, refuel, and regroup before climbing again to the heights. Shade in the valley is not a bad thing. It’s what restores us.
In closing I want to quote the late Ed Abbey from The Monkey Wrench Gang:
“When the situation is hopeless, there’s nothing to worry about.”
I have a lot more hope for the future today than I did a few weeks ago. I feel stronger; I feel better. And I’m writing again.