Everest, of sorts.

I lean in my doorway, staring out into the inky blackness of the night. I can feel the doorframe pulsing against my shoulder, as though the beats of my heart were somehow shaking the very foundations of the earth.

The thoughts running through my mind incoherent, a texture of slight madness. A confusion of my senses.

I wonder at the complexity of the human heart, at the physiologic response imparted by a feeling. A growing tremor in my balance, equilibrium a distant and disquieting memory.

I find myself many times wondering. What is my subconscious trying to tell me at this time, this place? I question everything, it’s my natural reaction to nearly every external stimulus. I can be very much an extrovert, but deep inside I am still that same shy little boy, the same unobtrusive teen that grew into the man that I am today.

In my quieter and most honest moments I can admit that I am still that timid youngster, wrapped in layers of extreme accomplishments and a bravado bordering on outright arrogance. I have pushed myself to love the most extreme of life experiences – to leap without looking, to fall with no fear of dying…but the emotional leaps are the hardest, to look through those tattered holes in my heart, through the filmy wisps of my soul and still have so much hope.

I was cold for a very long time, much of my adulthood has been spent bucket-listing the most death-defying, insane sports I could apply myself to. But it has always been to allow myself to love unconditionally – without thought or reason – that is my everest.

I always think in terms of the visual, when I say my everest I mean exactly that:

The air crisp and cold, hard packed snow crunching under my boots. Whenever I take my eyes off of those desert tan boots I can see that there are vertical miles ahead of me. There are no Sherpas on this trek, the only carrier for my baggage is my back. The trail is steep and slippery. Crevasses dot the landscape, some seen, most hidden under seemingly solid snow. You can never know when you will fall, nor how far, or hard.

Some falls break pieces of you, pieces that are put back in but will never fully heal or fit together properly. They leave seams and scars, in places the glue wears ever thinner. Some are no more than scrapes and bruises. Every fall weighs down your pack, it gets heavier with every step you take along the path. The lonely trail grows only more arduous and treacherous as you ascend. Occasionally someone will walk with you for a bit, shouldering some of your burden as you shoulder some of theirs. Strange, how you’re carrying the same amount of weight but it seems so much lighter while you have someone to walk with.

Your companion almost invariably leaves to take their own path up the mountain. Some leave with kind words and an exchange of gifts, you keep a piece of each other forever locked away. Others flee in the dead of night, taking from you things that you will never get back and won’t discover until the morning reveals their footprints leading away – away down a trail you cannot, will not, follow.

You climb ever higher, the air is thinning, it gets harder to breathe, to go on, to place one foot in front of the other. It grows ever harder to believe that the path is right one, that you’re not lost and walking in circles.

Sometimes you stop at a base camp, restock and revitalize. Taking deep breaths to remind yourself why you must continue on. Even though your path stretches behind you for months, years, decades, you still have not summited.

You walk on, ever alone, never revealing everything to the single-serving friends that emerge from and re-merge with the darkness siding your trail.

And then you meet someone on that winding trail, someone that carries a torch, someone who somehow rekindles your own. And you wonder how you ever felt alive before that moment.

I wonder.

You marvel at the fresh snowfall, obscuring all of the other prints, the light banishing the shadows and you cannot fathom the how or the why, you are unable to articulate the fear-joy that tells you a crevasse is coming and that you’re in no way prepared for it. There is no explaining it, you just feel; fingers and toes thawed, the wind no longer ice-cold.

The fear sets in, the joy takes hold and the peak looms just above, beckoning. Drop the bag and leap it seems to say, could you but reach forth your hand.

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  1. I love this post, it’s definitely one of your best and you’ve described love and life so well here. I could identify with every footstep along the way. Only for me, the cold mountain that is life seemed to transform into a beautiful lagoon in an isolated place where time no longer existed. Water, like warm silk on your skin. And for a brief moment, there was no more climbing, just a joyous reprieve. But it was only a taste because we still had to reach the summit together.

    I am now at the base camp, alone again and have been for a while, unsure of venturing back out onto the harsh Everest. I am tired of climbing. I am tired of climbing alone and I definitely don’t wish to make that trek again with someone who stops just short of the peak. I watch from the window and sometimes think I see a faint torch out there in the distance. Though it may briefly spark the hope that ever resides in me, I’m certain that I am watching someone else’s fate. And I wonder what they will choose in the final moments. Will they make it or will I see another victim of the treacherous mountain walk through the door.

    It’s no longer the mountain that scares me. The thin air, the hidden crevasses or even the climbing it alone. What scares me is that someone with faux resolve will convince me to climb again. I hope that now I will be able to ascertain the truth in his eyes. I know what’s there, waiting. It’s a place whose beauty means significantly less without someone to share it with.

    So I’ll wait at the base camp where it’s warmer. I have my dreams to keep me company for now. I’m certain there’s a message to unravel.

    From one climber to another: it’s worth the glimpse.

    • Yeah, it’s almost always worth it, even when it is so very brief. Short like a firefly’s life; shining like a star for a summer’s eve before going dim, and fading away forever.

      There is always something beautiful in the sadness 🙂

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