Thursday, April 24, 2014

Turning North

The day spread out before him in an unbroken expanse of deep grass, wild flowers, and undulating hills. He stood up, rested from a night sleeping under the stars, and stretched, taking in the sunrise. The shadows revealed the slightest hollows in the broad plain that ran for twenty miles to the base of the Mountain.

There, the land rose, dark with ponderosa pines, up to the tree line to exposed rock, snow fields, and rarefied air.

He had to whole day to make his way through the pinon, juniper, and cedar pygmy forest to the base of the Mountain. He could take his time, savor each step.

He hefted his load and began to walk. The desire to move overpowered the hunger for breakfast, the habit of coffee.

It was his day to break a trail into new territory.

His mind was clear and his eyes sharp. He scanned the fields for elk. They sometimes came down from the high country to graze on the thick pastures reserved for cattle. There was a herd of about seventeen animals that he had seen before in this area, and he had heard a bull trumpet the night before. Its voice comforted something in him that needed proximity to a wild creature.

Now, there was nothing but sun, grass, scattered trees, and a breeze. He made his way north, growing  older with each step, grayer, a little less flexible.

It was his mind that really began to change though.

He saw beyond the borders of his limited perspective. He felt sad about how much time he had spent consumed by hunger, ambition, and isolation.

As a younger man, he worried about whether or not he would get enough and had made mistakes in the name of taking too much care of himself, whatever that was.

Now, the view was bigger, and he saw others as his business.

It was now, when his strength was fading, that he most wanted to apply himself, to give himself.

Of course, there were the voices he carried with him, would always carry with him.

They were packed away in the dark pockets of his pack. The told him to stop and rest; they whispered to the tired parts of his bones, saying slow down, stay here, go no further, don't worry about the others. You owe them nothing.

He knew these voices, though not exactly right, had a point to make. He had to keep his eyes and ears on the Mountain. Getting there would require every flicker of energy and strength he could marshal. He had no time or energy to spare listening to the fear hiding in those shadows.

For most of his life, he had given them too much time, had hidden out and avoided his birthright. He did what he could, he told himself. He did what he had to do, he told himself. He had been a good man, a serious man, he told himself.

And he had done these things, but he knew he had bought a lie, had failed to surrender to the work, hardship, and terror of believing in the impossible. It was for that, and for forgiving that, that he walked today.

So he walked, every step closer, a paradox of decline and ascension, invisibility and illumination.

The day was still young, but its light emanated more and more from inside as he gradually grew increasingly blind, feeble, and sure of his step.

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