Friday, April 8, 2016

The Mountain that Others have Climbed

I want to write but don’t know how. I face the mountain that others have climbed and it looks so easy. A thought, a word, an idea is all you need to get started. “Sit down and write” is what they say. So I do. I head towards the mountain and before I even reach the foothills I am exhausted and discouraged. I will never be able to climb the way he does. See how she reaches the summit and exclaims “Look! I wrote this!”. Although I know in my head that they did not have it easy the way my heart says, I sit at the edge of the foothills and just watch. Read the excess of material that flows from the top of this mountain that other people can climb. And with each word I read I see the ideas start flowing in my own head again. “Just sit down and write” a mantra I repeat in my head with each drudgingly placed footstep. I look up and notice that I have reached the foothills. But by now my feet and my fingers feel like they have been incased in iron. Iron hewn from the mountain that others climb. So I look to my own heart and ask the questions that have been buzzing in my ears since I decided to try to climb to the top. Why bother with writing, who cares what you see in your head that keeps racing in circles as you read the paragraphs that others have written? Do you see the skill with which he finds that perfect handhold on that rock face three quarters of the way up the mountain that others are climbing? You will never attain that level of precision. “But just sit down and write” comes the whisper on the wind from the top of the mountain that I try to climb. So again, with heavy feet and heavier fingers; with no gear like the ones who’ve gone on before, I start taking steps not caring which way. I plow on with my head down, thinking the thoughts that drive through my fingers and onto the paper I’ve placed on my lap. I feel as though I am dragging the mountain that others have conquered. One foot in front of the other, one letter following the last, one sentence one paragraph and I look up and see that I have reached the bottom of this mountain. And I keep looking up for it feels as if the mountain stretches up and away past the sky. With this weight that I feel how do I start? Where do the rest of my words need to go? I sat down, and I wrote but now that I’m here I want to turn back. I no longer hear the whisper of encouragement from the mountain itself. Its bulk is blocking the light and at this point I no longer feel interest in what others have made. The ground around me is rocky and strewn with pieces of parchment that I know in my heart are discarded words from the ones like me. The ones who want to write but don’t know how. Aha! There, I see a small path on the steep slope of this mountain that others climb. And I realize, as I start walking again, my fingers flowing across the keys with an ease I felt envious of in the past, that the ruins of the ones who failed are spurring me on. Because they tried and failed. I see remnants from the same people who I saw at the summit! The ease with which I imagined them climbing must have come from the practice they gained before me. The mountain encouraged them too, I believe. And now I can sense it, the mountain that others have climbed is still speaking. Letters are its foothills, words its rocky base, sentences that path that others have taken, paragraphs and page breaks are the valleys and crevices that all mountains claim. And in its heart it holds stories that others have told. The ones who have climbed and fallen and given up and climbed again. The ones who have conquered its slopes and reached the summit of this mountain that I am climbing. As I work my way up I hear the mountain speak of the failures and successes it’s seen. I reach the sheer rock face that I know from observing is closer to the top than the bottom. I sit to rest and hope I can find enough ideas in my reserve tank to continue. I listen as the mountain quietly explains. It says that the heartaches and troubles and pain lend truth to the stories that others have claimed. Because success without work breeds nothing but shame. It tells me that I am no different than the ones who have conquered this mountain that others have climbed. An inspiration hits me; flat on my back I look up and see the ones at the top. They’re waving, but not in an insolent way. Encouragement comes, not from the mountain with stories at its heart, but from the ones who put them there. So I sit up, I get up and place my hands here and there. My feet find footholds and I push myself up. I see each spot to put my fingers next and it occurs to me, as I work my way up, that from down in the foothills, I bet this looks easy! It takes a lot of work, and my energy is failing but I know to give up now? Means this mountain would gain more detritus there in the rocks near its base. And though those are the things that inspired me? I do not want this to be among those down there. So I don’t “sit down and write” for that feels like an out. And easy way to do what I know must be done. I push my weakened mind for just those few more ideas. I tell my fingers that no matter the ache the words must be written. And pushing and pushing I see the edge above me. So reaching with what feels like the last of my strength I curl my fingers over the ridge I can’t see as much as feel. I pull myself up and… no more exhaustion. The end is there, I can see the top. My heart is racing as fast as my mind used to. Exhilaration? Is that what I feel as I get nearer the end of this journey that started with a wishful thought? It is, and I move on with a speed I have not had before. The words are flowing and my feet are moving and I see the ones who have climbed this mountain smiling from the top. They understand the feeling of accomplishment. For I know now that I will finish, I will make it to the top of this mountain that I, and others have conquered. And before I take the last few steps, I turn and look. Others are starting, just where I was, some at the foothills, tired as me, some halfway up with the mountain’s whispers in their ears, and a few on that rock face, my most recent conquest. I smile; I turn and leap the last few feet. That’s it. I made it. I point to my paper and say “Look! I wrote this!”. Now I am the one who those others are seeing. And maybe, just maybe, they’re inspired by me.