I saw her standing at the base of the mountain, craning her head up, squinting through the February sun at a summit she could barely contemplate. Her face told me everything I needed to know: She was tired from a journey she was afraid to start.
She took a deep breath and walked forward in a here goes nothing kind of way. Hugged tightly by rugged granite, whispering winds, and sliding snow. She was in territory some don’t survive and yet she marched onward toward a mountain with no trail.
She was well-equipped with a backpack of mountaineering necessities, though she didn’t know it. She’d been carrying the weight on her back for so long, she’d forgotten it might hold something useful. She had no idea she could save herself.
She turned back a few times, considered retreating to the base. It seemed easier. But a billowing cloud cast a permanent shadow where she once stood. Where she was going, she was promised light.
When she made it to the summit, she wasn’t met with an immediate feeling of triumph. More like a slow settling of relief. It was a clear day; she could see far. Far enough to see the beautiful days ahead. She looked back at the path she had climbed, whispered, Thank you for teaching me, dropped her backpack at her feet, and let herself go the only place she knew—forward.
Years later she’d return to the base of that mountain to find someone else looking up with the same tired, scared eyes she’d hidden under her hat all those seasons ago. Can I climb it with you? she asked. I’ve done this route before. Here, hand me some of the gear from your pack—it’s better if we share the weight of it all.