We were surrounded by high steep mountains, over 8000 feet above sea level. The air was thin and life was built on stone terraces with structures that had survived for hundreds or thousands of years. It was clear that countless people had been climbing and living here for a very long time. The stair stepped path was made of stones of varying heights that had clearly been carefully carved and set when they were first placed. By now, the path was much covered by foliage on either side with only the well worn vertical path that zig-zagged straight up.
When we started, it was just stairs; this one six inches up, that one twelve. There were periodic flat landings where we thought we were safe, walking straight ahead- until it turned into a Mountain, tall, high, a rock wall against my shoulder as I watched my feet step carefully to avoid the unintended slip down the sheer cliff dropping thousands of feet just eighteen inches off the edge of the path.
Most of the group had gone well ahead moving at a faster pace, leaving a couple of us far behind. I didn’t care. After a few good pictures, I was ready to turn back, but each time I mentioned it, my host (who had climbed here many times) would gently say, “You’re half way there. You’re doing great. It’s not a race, take your time. Look, there’s a landing just ahead, we can rest.” At the landings, the views were breath taking. The world looked as I had never seen it before. And each view was enough to make me know that even if I turned back now, just the journey to this point was worth it with no regrets for not going on. But we did go on…
This was indeed the adventure of a lifetime; the views never seen, the birds of new colors, the sky with another face, the deep green of the mountains touching the clouds, the distant waterfalls from far away rivers. In that moment, I was content with what I had already accomplished, never mind the others. My legs had pulled a thousand stairs and rocks, the sky looked like rain, the air was thin and it took extra time just to breathe. When I finally reached the end of myself, I sat down. I said, “I’m done. It’s enough.”
And my host and good friend said, “Look up! That’s the top!” While I was reluctant to believe the man who had been telling us we were “halfway there” for the better part of an hour, I could see and hear the crazy people posing on the edge of a ledge, laughing and taking pictures just a few yards above us. We took a few more steps, went through a small cave, turned a corner, and there it was- The Top.
It was a large flat sloping stone that formed a ledge angled slightly upwards pointing to the beautiful sky in the far distance. The view was striking. We could see how far we had come. Other new travelers were but dots blending into the landscape far away. The details of our starting place were invisible. Like everyone else, we took pictures with the sign, marking our geographical place in the universe, to ensure that we were believed when we re-told the story to mere mortals back on earth.
We were quite pleased with our achievement as we snapped pictures of the vistas below. This was when it occurred to me: We still have to go back down. The path down continued on in a different direction than the path up, and for ten minutes it rained, adding mud to the mix…
Life Lessons from a Mountain – Part 2 will be posted on Friday, July 31, 2015