I went mountain climbing today. Well, sort of. This week I am staying at a place in the mountains. It’s a YWAM base, which, is sort of a Bible school. They train missionaries here and send them all over the world. The place is laid out something like a retreat center, with cabins and dormitories. I guess it’s how colleges are supposed to look. (Mine was anomaly, inspiring jokes about the Jetson’s).
But I think they are supposed to look something like this—tree lined trails running behind the main buildings, with rows of adorable white 1-2 bedroom houses, all in white clapboard. Bikes, running shoes, and barbeque grills spill off the tiny porches and into the street. An occasional vehicle creeps by…maintenance trucks, or decade secondhand cars, none of whom even use the accelerator in consideration of the foot traffic.
The entire self-contained campus is privately nestled in the mountains. But, today with a few hours to kill, I decided to use the hiking trails. I’ve never been good at hiking. In fact, hiking terrifies me. I once hiked through the Grand Canyon.
It’s a good statement to make and gives you street cred among outdoor enthusiasts. But, really, I hiked about twenty feet in, and held onto the wall the entire time, squealing at regular intervals, rigid with terror that I would slip on some donkey poop and go plummeting into the world’s largest hole and the certain death that it offered. (If you’ve ever been to the Grand Canyon, you will know that this is a very reasonable and rational fear). I finally told everyone that I refused to go any further and I was going back up. (A feat in itself). I hiked back up, careful of the donkey poop, and then watched everyone else descend from the safety of the rim. For years hence, I have told people that I hiked in the Grand Canyon.
So, today I decided to go hiking up Mount Mystery. Pensive moods make me brave. That and alcohol. Since I had no alcohol, I had to rely on the bravery of my poetic curiosity. So, I kept climbing, and climbing. I hadn’t thought to bring tennis shoes, so all I had was my rubber flip flops. I get climbing over the grass, and the boulders through the narrow trails. And then I turned, and I looked below, and it was beautiful. The serenity of nature and the buildings rising against the timeless mountains. Humanity’s attempt to subdue the earth, and the earth majestic and sovereign in its own.
There’s something wild and adventurous about nature that brings out the power in us all. We were made to subdue the earth. It’s part of what makes us uniquely human. We were not meant to live in harmony with it. We were meant to tame it.
I had almost reached the top of the mountain. And I sat on a boulder and tried to think of something poetic and wistful, and deep….and I had nothing.
My determined and poetic spirit pushed me to go further, and conquer the rest of the mountain. But, then I started to worry about mountain lions and snakes and such and that I had made this hike on a lark, so no one actually knew where I was. So, if I tripped and fell down the mountain and broke my ankle and couldn’t get back down, it would be a very long time before anyone thought to look up there for me. Damn practical thoughts. Maybe if I’d had some Tequila I would have made it to the top…
So, I climbed back down, ever so carefully (in my flip-fops). I reached the bottom of the mountain and civilization and still wondered if I had any poetic or philosophical gain out of my brief trip. Nothing. I just crossed something off my bucket list that had never been on it. And that’s the story of my mountain climbing that day.