Sometimes we’d like life to be a sprint. A dash of effort followed by an eon of relaxation. A hiking up a hill and peering through the trees to see a sunset over the ocean.
Except minus the sprint or the hike.
But it really doesn’t work that way, at least for me.
I realized a while ago that I don’t want to hike hillocks in life, but rather summit peaks.
The long journey of mountain trekking that is built up of placing a foot after a foot after a foot.
It calls to me, this mountain. Though I don’t fully know its name.
I started out years ago, much further away, in a forest by a sea, watching the water from a far distant land find the shore. The whispers of ideas and dreams flit about while questions and fears seek to anchor, answer, protect. So it is that we look out into the distance, practical, pragmatic, protective dreamers who one day will start to make our way to the mountain.
But that day doesn’t come quick, as we walk around the shore, or take dalliances into the woods. Follow the path a distance, come to a fork with both leading towards the mountain, and choose to head back, or to sit down and ponder for a year, or three.
Climbing mountains is not fast work. It is long and arduous, and we would allow others that it takes time, it takes training, it takes intention and will. Things we don’t allow ourselves, when we judge, diminish, doubt, our ability to put a foot in front of the other for a long time.
These things, these journeys, seem too big; too daunting. We construct our dreams and hopes into Mount Olympus or Mount Everest, and we assign it to the ‘one day’ bin, which really means the ‘never but maybe’ bin.
And then… at some point, we take another step. We choose a left or right fork, or more slowly and awkwardly blaze a trail down the middle, or around the side.
We move forward, and this is not a sprint.
Along the way companions come. Some stay. Some go.
We learn lessons, we forget lessons, we learn lessons again, and take a few more steps.
We invest in better equipment, research routes, and sit not utilizing the equipment or stepping forward on the plans. Basecamp stays sometimes last months, or years, but then one day it comes together again, when we’re ready, and we set out a bit further.
Years have passed. When we sit and look into the river, we catch a glimpse of our reflection as the waters from our future shine back upon us and drift back into our past.
We see some of who we were, some of who we are, and some of who we will be.
We take a drink, splash water in our face, and continue on.
This is a marathon, and a process. It is a path walked before, and never walked before. It is an experience shared, and utterly unique.
We learn skills as we go: how to start a fire, how to use a compass, how to realize the fear and take a step forward through it, whether with flashlight, teddy bear, a friend alongside, or a bit more experience under our belts.
This isn’t a sprint, and it isn’t supposed to be. Wherever you are you’ve come a fair ways to get here.
Now you can sit by the fire and ponder. Share some tales and dream some dreams. One of these mornings the sun will rise and you’ll be ready to knock the dust off of your shoes and hit the trail again.
Little steps make long journeys, and there’s paths to be explored, life to be lived, and mountains to climb.
A step at a time, again and again.