You saw her in the distance, kissing the sky and creating her own weather.
And your life was a boring cacophony of business meetings and whining kids, so you wondered about the climb. So you studied her. Stalked her, really. You prepared. You went to REI and bought gear, you read every word written about her. You planned your trip and waited for the moment you’d be able to pack your bags.
Life grabbed you by the chin and commanded your attention, so for a while, you refocused. You put your head down and your white flag up. You went to the islands, but you couldn’t relax.
You couldn’t relax because out there, somewhere, was a mountain you couldn’t stop thinking about.
She warned you over and over again that the danger was real and the view had a price; but when you couldn’t stand the distance anymore you finally packed those bags and bought your plane ticket- in cash- and she welcomed you. She dared you.
You’d like to forget how well she knows you, because she was in your head when the clock ran out and there was no game left to play. She knows that you’ll always need a mountain, because that’s who you are. She made you question everything you knew about life on the ground and when you started making your way up her trails, she didn’t apologize when the ground shook under your feet. She didn’t feel sorry about the cracks that formed in the icy paradigms of your personal history. That mountain, she took you seriously. And it was nice to be taken seriously, wasn’t it?
Slowly, ever so surely, you inched your way up her spine… even when she threatened suffocating avalanches and blinding winds. Even when she showed you the carnage of her past. But you continued your trek, gouging her snowy flesh with your pick-axe in repeated efforts to just keep your grip on her a little bit longer… You climbed like your life depended on it, didn’t you?
When you reached the summit, she whispered your name and begged you to look. And you did.
You took in the view the way a pickpocket steals watches, and she let you take whatever it was that you wanted.
On the way down, you grew sick from the altitude and disoriented by your own inner compass. You mistook your ego for oxygen and the trail disappeared, and saving yourself from the brink became a reason to hate that mountain. You called in an airlift, an unapologetic easy exit. There’s no shame in it, right? Call the game, blame an old injury. You got what you came for after all, a view of the world from somewhere above it- supposedly closer to heaven but decidedly closer to hell.
And now you can tell your friends just how brutal it was, and you can testify to the way God moves mountains. You can talk about it like you were her obsession; like she beckoned you. Like the reason she stands there looking beautiful and untouchable is so that men just like you can conquer things that didn’t ask to be conquered. You can forget the details you don’t like and emphasize the ones that serve you. You can blame her for your chapped lips and sunburn and frostbitten toes. And when your knees creak and your back aches in depth of your personal winter, you’ll be reminded that the choice to climb her was always yours alone.
When your life goes back to boring and all of the side effects of your altitude sickness are gone, you’ll be okay for a while. You’ll try to forget all of the reasons you needed that mountain, to minimize them and paint them as character flaws. You’ll stick to the beaches where where every wave demands an apology from you, where the sand buries you under sunshine that makes it all look fabulous.
And she’ll still be there, doing what she does. Kissing the sky, talking to the moon, creating her own weather. That’s the thing about mountains. You don't change the mountain, the mountain changes you.