It isn’t really Mt. Everest. This is nothing like the great, iconic mountain that beckons to the committed climber and yearly takes the lives of the unwary and unprepared. My ‘Everest’ is just a very long, very steep upward rising slope that sits at the very end of my morning walk. It starts innocently enough and then rises and climbs so precipitously that I end up panting and puffing like a walrus. Time was when I could cheerfully scale this obstacle with an airy, “Oh, yeah!” Nowadays, I approach this hill and mumble, “Oh. Yeah…” and wonder whether I will be able to conquer it without stopping to catch my breath. But each morning, I make the attempt, and this morning is no different.
How much longer, now?
The steep slope rises higher
With every footfall.
I remind myself that I have bested other Everests before—I suspect that we all have. Most of these are so commonplace that they slide by without much fanfare, but some are terrible. Facing these horrors are soldiers wounded in war, stroke victims, cancer patients, victims of hurricanes and other disasters, and a million brave souls whose names we will never know. These people work through terrible odds— as did the grandson of a friend who was so badly mangled by a traffic accident that he was not expected to survive. That he lived to walk onto the stage to receive his high school diploma gives proof that courage and tenacity can conquer the most formidable Everest.
Such are monster mountains that we pray never to see, but there are day-by-day hills and slopes that face us routinely. Prepping for that all-important job interview; being rejected by the college of choice; having to pull up stakes and leave behind family, friends and a neighborhood known for years—these are familiar and hard on courage and heart. And, less crucial but just as daunting, there is that first sentence of a story or book, the first cut of a piece of fabric or the initial touch of pen or brush to paper. And, wait, wait, what about cleaning out that closet? Yes, that one—the one we usually close quickly in order to avoid being hit on the head by some falling object?
Every step on the way to the top of the mountain has its new twists and turns, and everyone’s mountain is different. Today I am near the end of my walk and my personal nemesis awaits me. Solid and formidable and looking so very, very long, and steep, the beastly slope dares me to tackle it once more. If there was another, easier path I would take it, but there is only one way home, and it is Everest.
I grit my teeth, take a deep breath, and commence climbing the mountain. As of course I must. As all of us must.
At the mountain top,
Straighten the back, draw deep breath…