Column, Living the Dream

At the top of the mountain, I find peace

By Merissa Sherman

You can see the glow starting to grow between the trees and you know the summit must be soon and I quicken my pace to get to the opening. My right arm reaches around a tree and a swing my feet around to land on a rock just below. A few quick little steps to catch my body back up to my feet and take that last big leap across to the open rock of the summit before stopping on the spray painted blue X which, obviously, marks the top.

While the view is gorgeous, I cannot focus yet until I complete what has become my summit ritual. Closing my eyes, I stand with my hands pressed together and focus on breathing in the fresh mountain air. One slow, deep inhale puts my heart back into pace with the mountain itself. The wind dances around, embracing me like silk ribbons would swirl around a dancer. I listen to the wind as it moves, listening for the pine trees dancing or the leaves floating about. My hair blows this way and that, quickly losing itself from my poor efforts with the hair elastic. But I let all wander where it may and just feel the movements around me, letting myself become one more object of nature.

As my breath matches the mountain, I allow my eyelids to slowly lift on an exhale and simply gaze out straight ahead. The scene before me slowly comes into focus and my eyes follow the line of the valley as far as they can see. The highway below looks like a toy village, and I wonder about how quickly things go from big to small just by walking a few vertical feet. There’s a tractor trailer slowly making it’s way up The [Sherburne] Pass and The Inn at Long Trail looks like a fairy house built at the base of an ancient tree. I get distracted by the deep longing for a serving of double chocolate Irish soda bread pudding with Irish whiskey sauce, but then I gently shake my head and return to the present. Dessert and a slowly poured Guinness will have to wait.

Extending my line of sight upward, you can help but be entranced by the flowing descent of Pico Mountain.

While I know the steeps are there, from the top of Deer Leap, it looks like trails are just pouring into the valley. They seem to be made by nature and not by men with saws almost 75 years ago. I can’t recall how many hours I’ve spent just staring at the way those trails flow down the mountainside. Even though you can look from the top toward so many different directions, whether the trails are covered in white or the bright greens of early summer, it’s that one that most draws me in.

I would like to think that all the answers to life can be found at the top of a mountain, if only we would just listen. There’s a clarity in sitting at a summit, in silence and awareness, learning from all that sits around and below us. As a glacial formation, what stories do the rocks at Deer Leap have to tell us if only we just sit and listen to hear them? Placing my hand open faced on the rock, I imagine that I can feel the rumbles as the glacier cuts across the Sherburne Pass and wonder what this region might have looked liked before.

The rock never answers any of my questions but somehow I always leave with more wisdom than with which I arrived.

The sun is setting and it’s time to descend. We’ve watched the purples and pinks fade away and time has passed along. My headlamp is ready for when the canopy gets thick further down the rocky trail and I don’t want to get my foot caught in between. I might not have the answers to the secret of life, but I am so looking forward to that Guinness at the bottom.

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