Monday, May 16, 2005

Most things in life can be packed into boxes and put in a basement somewhere to collect dust. Spiders crawl across pages where pens used to. Pages where memories survive, stained clearer than minds are willing to remember. Memories grow in time from what you were to what you needed to be for who you are now. And then there are those little pieces no words will ever help you remember. The ditch out past the back yard where the waterbugs always managed to skate out of reach. The feeling of the old tree swing as it swung and spun in five directions at once. The horrible stench of burning hair.

I remember waking up at 4 a.m. one morning with the taste of phone-ordered pizza still in the back of my mouth. Slowly we gathered our gear, laced up our boots and mounted our headlamps. Three mountain summits in one day. The van slid through darkness, gently rocking enough to coax me back to sleep. We reach the trailhead with an abrupt lurch that quickly brought me from one dream to the next. The first few miles on foot we walked in silence. The body moved separate from the brain until the first pink stripes light put out the stars overhead. By the time sunlight hit our faces we had nearly reached the top of the first summit.

The pause was only long enough to smile inwardly and sip a ration of water before we began across the ridge of precariously settle rocks to the neighboring pinnacle. Feet feel heavier as they swell and only old stories of back home can distract us. No one notices the dark clouds gathering far off in the western sky.

By the time we reach the second peak and collapse from want of food the very same clouds are taking up much more of the sky. we quickly feed ourselves, sugars and starches only, knowing that the lactic acid building in our muscles wasn't the only thing that was going to keep us from reaching the third and final summit. I don't know if it was foolish pride, stubbornness or complete infirmity that drove us to our feet and back on the trail but we couldn't relent.

Walking turned to stumbling and energy grew thin. From a distance it must have been readily apparent that each step was a labored one. As we climbed the last few hundred feet the clouds timed perfectly to dip out of the sky and meet us. 100 feet. I could feel the euphoric sense of final accomplishment. 75 feet. The Clouds grew so thick I couldn't even see the top. 50 feet, The air smelled of something special. 25 feet. Dampness clung to my skin think and heavy. As I reached the summit the rocks around me began to hum in appreciation. Someone reached a hand out to pull me the final few steps but I refused it. All the hairs on my arms stood up in climax.

I touched the gold metal plate to officially mark my arrival. I sighed relief and collapsed against a boulder to wait for the humming of the rocks to quit and for the hairs to nestle back against my arms. But two minutes passed and nothing changed. The rocks buzz grew louder. The hairs felt as if they were being plucked from my skin. And all at once we realized that this was not the energy of euphoria but that of nature and Nikolai Tesla.

Suddenly I was completely alert. People were yelling but no one needed to be told what to do. In the next 3 minutes our organized line collapsed into a scrambling flock of mountain goats who were falling much more than they were hiking. Rocks sliced through skin and chipped bone but it didn't matter, we knew that we had move faster than our legs could carry us. Faster than gravity because...and then all the sudden I was blind and deaf. The flash and the boom came so strongly that the rocks tumbled down orom above and drove their way deep into my calves. Someone in front of me slipped, tumbled and I could tell from the look in his face that his arm had certainly broken.

There was no time. He knew it. I knew it. Not a word passed between us. We just kept moving. Even after we emerged from the cloud. Even after the rain stopped beating down from above. Even after we found a trail and passed others staring astonished. We made it to the van and boarded in near silence. It wasn't until we had returned back up the road to the front door that anyone could let out a sigh of relief. I fell backward onto my bed and could do little more than chuckle.

And the way it sounds on the paper in the basement under the cobwebs and the boxes of old Kodak prints is just so drab. It doesn't show the indentation on the front of my shin or that scar on the small of my back. Or the wry little smile on my face every time I think about those rocks humming to me. Because when everything I own becomes meaningless it's that noise that is my salvation.


Blogger Courtney said...

My name is Courtney, and I have been reading your blog for almost 3 months now. (I found your blog on the Chokey Chicken.) You're a really good writer, and now that that is said:

The mountain story, been there, done that. But, memories can't be packed because, once you pack them, you'll probably forget to open the boxes until it's too late to enjoy them. So enjoy your memory filled boxes before life throws you a curve ball and it's too late.

6:19 PM  
Blogger Mo said...

mountains and boxes and curve balls, oh my!

10:54 PM  

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