Directions to the Top of the Mountain

Step 1: Wake up early. Wake up before your alarm. Wake up because you need the rest and for once, sleeping in would get in the way of it. If it takes your friends gleefully swinging pots and pans against each other on the other side of your bedroom door, so be it.

Step 2: Eat breakfast, because you know you’ll need it, but quickly, because you have other places marked out where you should more properly be. Your maps are loose things, covered in spots of sunshine and looping trails and old stone scrambles, but the breakfast table is off the edge. It’s a little thrilling, and a little terrifying, to be lost in unknown already. But you had better get back to the trail.

Step 3: Forget what your mother told you about how to dress sensibly. Forget what yesterday you would have defined as sense. Your new logic is simply this: Wear something warm. Wear something comfortable. Wear something that is too-bright, too-lucky, too-gaudy, too-uncalculated, and too-undiguised. Wear it because it makes you smile when you look in the mirror. And top it off with a hat that will make your friends smile, too.

Step 4: Remember what your mother told you about shoes. Leave your favorites behind, unless your favorites have excellent traction and provide ankle support.

Step 5: Gather. Your water, your snacks, your friends, your wits. Take a breath: Ready.

Step 6: Forget what walking is. Reassign your feet to better duties. Dance, skip, siddle, hop. Do anything but trip and tip-toe. Falling lacks all the proper momentum, and it would be ridiculous to think you can sneak upward when you have already been bold enough to step up on this mountain’s face.

Step 7: Take in a full lungful of air, you bold thing. You are standing under sun and trees older than you will ever be, and daring them to turn you away. You are tamping footprints into old stones, and pushing yourself higher on their offered backs. And you have a long way to go, and you’re going to need every heavy breath you can get.

Step 8: Slip once. Forget to breathe. Forget to drag swallows off your water bottle. Remember why you don’t climb mountains every day, and lean forward on your knees when you can’t swing your foot into that next step. Let your friends be better than usual, and stop to rest with you. Let them be more annoying, and drag you farther up, and tell you when to breathe, when to drink, when to suck it up, when to push higher. Be better yourself. And more annoying. Push them higher, too.

Step 9: Arrive. Throw your arms wide and measure the sky between your finger tips. Look down, and measure the width of miles between your feet. Stand. Sit. Drink. Think. Laugh. Leap onto the backs of any over large stones nearby, just to steal a few more inches, and leave absolutely nothing between you and a world turned open.

Step 10: Eventually, it may be time to go back down. Don’t go soon. Stay as long as you want. Stay until gravity itself catches up with you, wraps its old-friend fingers around your wrists and pleads you back to where you usually rest. And don’t let yourself measure the distance as you descend. Count nothing – steps or trees or minutes or breaths. Remember the hazy view and never let yourself decide the climb was not quite so high as you thought.


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