The Climb to the Top
There's a sunrise practice in Shamanism, using dawn; we draw in the rising light over lives, our family, and most significantly- into our heart. The belief is that this is the Light of Creator, and this Light shines out through us as a reflection of Creator's Light for all to know and remember their own.
So, it was I found myself Sunday morning at the Flight Park in Draper, Utah.
My morning had another intention as well... I've been breaking in some Asolo Vibram hiking boots in preparation for a trip to Havasupai, Arizona in the next few weeks with an outdoor expedition gear company, Granogi and for the past few weeks I have been getting out a few miles a week to prepare.
The "plan" was to park at the top and walk 2 miles downhill, to walk 2 miles back up, do my meditation and go home.
What happened was something completely different.
Upon arrival, I stepped out of my SUV and surveyed the valley below me. Like usual, the wind was blowing and I found myself chilled from the icy breath against my neck. The dew on the grass still damp; the park deserted.
I turned to begin my descent down the concrete sidewalk when I heard a cry out in the distance behind me. As I looked up to the steep hillside I couldn't see anyone but I did see a steep path straight up the mountain from where the sound came.
I turned back to the sidewalk and took a few steps before halting. Standing reflectively for a moment I asked the question " What do I really want to do?" take the road down, break in the boots, or climb the steep hill for fun?
I paused because as a single mom for 7 years I am a responsible adult. I pay my bills, school shop, go to bed at a reasonable time, buy the "mom car" hold a regular job and keep the laundry up. But lately, I've had this urge to LIVE more recklessly. Not, unwisely- but not so measured and careful.
It looked hard. I wanted to know if I had the tenacity to do it. I remembered as a little kid, climbing trees as high as I could go- just to see how far that was. I remember walking across the top of the monkey bars back and forth... just to try it. I remember running to my friend, Karen's house to see how fast I could make it. I remember jumping out of a second story window to see if I could land on the little red wagon beneath it- just because! (out of precaution, naturally, I put a pillow in the wagon first- it didn't cushion the fall much- and the wagon rolled out from under me-and I hit the concrete... and I NEVER did it again- BUT I knew I could) I remember jumping OFF the 2nd story ROOF onto the trampoline.
I USED to be FEARLESS.
But something happened when I became a mom; more specifically, a single mom. I became SERIOUS. I realized that someone needed to take care of things and if I lived irresponsibly- it was my kids who would pay the price too, not just me.
Like Karen. She would follow my example- and she broke her arm over and over. She even got grounded from me. Not because I was naughty- but because she kept getting hurt doing the same things I did easily. I didn't understand it. In my immature mind, it didn't compute... I would be climbing a tree, or walking across a pipe over a canal and she was right behind me- and in the next moment, she was gone. Usually, she had fallen. I would run and get her mom. This was our routine. It just WAS. It never occurred to me to be safer, or that what I was doing was dangerous.
So, on the mountain today- I turned, and I walked towards the climb.
Make no mistake about it- it was hard.
The ground was gravel and slid as I trekked; every step was like skipping two stairs at home, and I became keenly aware that IF I slipped I would tumbleweed myself down with nothing to break the fall.
As I mentioned before, I've been jogging a few miles a few times a week so I "thought" I was in shape- but half way up the hill I began resting every 10 feet or so. My breath like sandpaper in my throat.
A young woman was climbing down the steep hill, she was on her bottom- and inched foot by foot using her hands to grasp sage brush and dry grass as she went.
"Did you make it to the top?" I wheezed.
"Yes." She answered. " It's really dangerous and windy up there. Way worse coming down then up." She warned and continued scooting.
I asked myself another question "Do you really want to do this?"
I shrugged. "I don't really care" (I have conversations inside my head all the time.)
Squinting my eyes at the rising sun creeping over the mountain top above, I calculated how far I had gone and how far there was left to go.
"If you go home, without finishing- it will bug you." I said to myself.
"You're right." I answered.
I climbed. I climbed. I climbed.
I noticed a more rough path a few feet off the main one. It had higher steps and zig zagged a bit but I moved over to it. I liked the feel of it more.
I had to chuckle as I casually thought of Robert Frost's poem "I chose the road less traveled, and that has made all the difference..." I took a photo to try and show the literal experience of the poem.
Foot after foot. Thigh muscle burning after thigh... my left foot teaching me that my broken toe from last month wasn't fully healing like I thought as I gripped each stone for a solid hold.
Every step was made with consciousness. Knowing, if I chose without paying attention, one fumble and I would catapult downwards. I took pictures here and there, zipping my phone into my pocket securely afterwards, thinking that if I DID fall, I needed to have it with me to call for help and not to risk it falling out along the trail.
I called my Angels to watch over me.
Someone, sometime ago attached a rope that accompanied the steepest part of the trail. It gave me a boost of encouragement to see it.
As I gripped it- I felt like a rock climber, leaning back with gravity, using my arms and legs to accomplish the ascent.
I thought about my trust in the rope. It was frayed. I didn't know where it was anchored or how well it was... but I decided to simply trust. Trust those who had gone before, trust that I would be okay if the rope broke, trust that the rope wouldn't break. I took the gamble. And I made it to the top.
As soon as I breached to hilltop- the gail of winds hit me like tidal wave- the girl was right about them. The force was so extreme that I bent my knees as if I was a wrestler and braced myself from being thrown back over the ridge.
The sun was harsh now as was the wind and I considered the way my "peaceful" morning meditation and walk was turning out. I thought about the warnings of the girl.
And something inside of me rose up.
I faced the wind and spread my arms wide as if I were able to fly. I let the air flow over me, and through me- my hair whipping out of my ponytail and slapping my cheeks. "Take it all away" I told the wind.
The burdens, the heaviness, the confusion, the past pain... I imagined it being pulled out of my body like ribbons and flying away with the wind.
I turned in a circle, inviting the element of Air to cleanse my body and soul of any heaviness I've been feeling and I stayed at the top of the crest with the wind lapping me like a dog. I stayed, braced and ready until I was complete and decided to find my way down.
I thought of the warning again and looked down the trail.
As I paused there I thought " Her words don't have to be true for me." I make my own choices.
Just because she said it was harder going down, didn't mean that I had to receive it. Consider it- yes. Receive it as truth? No.
Crouching low, I moved my legs over the edge... clutching the rope.
(here's a pic of the rope over the cliff)
(here's a pic of the rope over the cliff)
Step by Step, I made my way down...
Looking backwards as I climbed backwards, my hands rubbing raw on the nylon rope. It had taken me about 30 minutes to climb the hill, "How long will it take to get down at this rate?" I wondered. But I felt like I was going faster... I wasn't stopping for breaks or laboring, just stepping one foot after another.... until... the rope ran out.
It only hangs less than a fourth of the way down. Rotating my body forward, I sat on the hill steadying my balance.
"It's WAY harder going down." She had said. She had scooted inch upon inch. She had grasped every plant, rock and clump to stay secure.
I thought. I pondered. I remembered the Katie I used to be.
I decided to slide.
Perched on my feet, I let gravity take me in a landslide of gravel and loose rocks- I simply did my best to stay ahead of it. Like a surfer on a wave or snowboarder on powder- I slid.
It was fun.
It took less than 3 minutes to get down.
I made it.
My shoes were full of rocks.
My hands were scraped.
My clothes covered in burrs.
I made it.
And it was fun.
I was grateful. Grateful to remember a little bit about the Katie I used to be- before life bogged me down.
Grateful for the people who had gone before and left a rope.
Grateful for the girl who warned me out of sincerity.
Grateful I dared.
It teaches me about life.
Take the risk.
Do it with as much wisdom as possible.
Leave a rope for others- but don't do the climb for them.
FACE the WIND, don't cower down.
And when gravity pulls... Ride it.
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