She had no idea there was a mountain to climb before she was brought to its base. Even then she didn’t know much about it, but felt the journey begin amidst the firm but gentle clasp of the adult hands on either side of her, holding her two small soft hands, with dimpled knuckles, in the cusps of love. Each of these adults, in their own way guided her, and sometimes both together gently lifted and hoisted her in the air between them, making her laugh with excitement and glee, and causing that funny, whirling, feeling in her tummy to rise up, like someone had released a bunch of mad hatter butterflies into her belly, none of whom knew in which direction they were meant to be flying.
Next came the people her own size, her new friends, climbing up the mountain with all the other adult hands holding theirs too. Occasionally all the smaller people would let go of the adult clasps and run side by side together, playing tag, laughing, and feeling wild and free. Sometimes one fell and grazed a knee. She didn’t remember that happening when the adults held their hands, but she didn’t remember the sense of freedom either, or the gleeful silliness that sometimes seemed to take people of her size over, in the middle of having such fun.
Some friends came and went from the path she was walking, others were long haulers, the ones that seemed more interested in climbing the mountain with her, than climbing ‘to’ anywhere. Sometimes the long haulers and she would sit on the side of the mountain and make daisy chains and chat. She liked that, because there was no effort required with these people, except to sit and laugh and feel the sun on their backs. Even when they’d get back to climbing, often it seemed like they’d all forgotten they were climbing at all, or that they were even on a mountain. Instead, it just seemed like they lived in a feeling, a calm, warm, ethereal feeling, where souls connected for a while.
Then came the various base camps she was told were important stop off points. There were so may of these all over the mountain, all with so many new faces, that sometimes she felt small and lost and lonely in their midst. Everyone was travelling faster now. Everything was wilder and more chaotic and sometimes she felt either caught up in the whirlwind of chaos, or lonely and unsure where, or why, she was on these parts of the mountain. But everyone said these were the best places to venture from, for the best routes, to lead you to the greatest peaks and that all the effort of doing it this way, would be so ‘worth it’ when she’d finally see the view.
Then she met him, that guy like her. They talked, sometimes just sitting there on the mountainside, resting on the grass, looking up at the sun and the clouds in the sky, while all these people around them climbed past them, so fast, that often it seemed that they didn’t notice two people lying there in their midst, who chatted and tried to figure out how the clouds came to float across the sun, or even how the sun came to be there in the first place, and why the sky was blue.
In their own time and way, he and she climbed the mountain together and the climb became more enjoyable, with each stage mastered in their own way. Both seemed happy now, in tune, working hard on the climb, having found their place with each other.
While on the way up, they took adventures to foreign parts of the mountain and foreigner parts still, virtually right round to the other side of the mountain, relishing the sights and sounds, the living world, the architecture and history and culture of these new parts, as did not exist on their part. ‘Two drifters off to see the world’, found fun and laughter in each other’s company, and love. But there were fireworks too.
Then came the junior climbers, who joined them on the climb, the little hands now in their own, the soft skin and dimpled knuckles of these juniors, so precious to them both. They too played games and hoisted the little arms up the mountain in fun, and laughed at the squeals and peals of laughter that the juniors spontaneously emitted when they did. But sometimes the climb with the little ones was tough, much tougher than either had realised it would be, especially because there were other things too that they had to carry, at times really hard things that were almost toppling them over.
She fell down on the mountain suddenly one day and needed the mountain rescue team to help her get back up. But even when she rose again, she was told by them, she could never climb the mountain like she once might have, and that bothered them greatly.
Sometimes they weathered the tough climb from there with jokes and laughter and memories, but sometimes it was very hard, especially when the clouds set in, and they couldn’t see where they were going.
One day she found herself without him on the mountain, a terrible time where she wanted to lie down and just stay there, because the loss and grief felt like too much to bare, on top of everything else, and anyway, what good would it be higher up the mountain without him? Those were dark days, especially knowing that he had chosen to do the rest of his climb without her. But still, the juniors needed her, and those adult hands of her childhood now needed her too, in an older way, and because they knew too that she needed them still, not to hoist her in the air now, but to help her feel the strength and support of other adults on her upward climb, they walked with her often.
Others came her way too, who camped nearby at night and kept in contact, to see how she was doing, or if she fancied their walking together for a while, and for such kindness, she was very grateful. Old friends she hadn’t seen in years arrived back onto her route now too, offering love and support as they climbed with her anew. New friends arrived also, ones, who had fallen on the mountain like her and who understood that climbing wasn’t so easy these days, that there were new strategies required, new supports, but that with enough of all, it was doable. She found such solace in them all and such companionship on the climb once more.
One day, in the beautiful sunshine, when the moment presented itself, she sat by herself on the side of the mountain to take in the special view. While the view of the valley below was indeed beautiful, she found she smiled wider and felt a greater warmth inside her when she looked at the view of her fellow mountain climbers, of all ages and stages, chatting and smiling as they climbed. The juniors were running around and ahead, the adult hands of childhood busy steadying themselves as they walked along and chatted with more of their age, the local friends and families, waving and saluting as they passed by, the old friends smiling and stopping to say hello. The fellow mountain ‘’rescued’, were strolling together too, encouraging her to join them to plan how to help the next bunch who might fall on the mountain.
How lucky she suddenly felt to have climbed with ALL she had ever climbed with on that mountain, even those not in view in that moment, for she now realised it was not about how long the time travelling together had been, but about the fact that they had shared the journey for a time and that that time had offered so much goodness.
She looked to the peak of the mountain. It was getting closer now, but there was still lots to climb too. Rising to her feet, she knew that for as long as she could continue to share the journey with other mountain climbers, it would be a good one.
Dedicated to all those people who have walked with me for anytime at all, long or short, thank you
© Pauline O’Shea
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