As a child a friend and I hiked a mountain together. Every step was swift and hurried, to carry us past the woods and trails for the summit. Without consideration we blazed through the forest to reach the top before my friend’s parents could follow. We wanted to see it first. We wanted to see further than our parents, who walked slowly, at a pace I perceived as haggardly and sloth-like. The summit was beautiful, or not the summit itself because we cared not at all what that looked like. We looked out and across to other peaks, our vision stretched out to the world. We laid claim upon creation, touching it across the void. Yet it was not us, nor our eyes that had gone anywhere. Our eyes had not dislodged themselves, our corneia, sclera, and retina remained where they were, comfortably in our heads. This is how we imagined it though, as if our eyes by just a glance may claim what is before us, traveling endlessly to uncharted mounds of rock and earth and unclimbed peaks. We were shortsighted, unable to see past our own receptors. Our dreams and visions merely an unexpected gift, light traveling from every direction bounded past us until collision. We are all shortsighted beings with great reaching aspiration but without light, blindness is an unwelcome witness. My friend and I quickly bored with the view. We hurried back down the mountain. My fiends parents having just briefly reached the summit turned automatically like the turning of gears, knowing they could not keep us. The decent was easier than the climb. What the mountain had previously refused to give up without effort, it now gave freely from beneath us. The mountain was ready to be rid of us. Our lodge was beside a large lake and across it were the new summits we longed to conquer. Two row boats carried us into the water, and we rowed eagerly to the other side. Two-thirds of the way across the hinge of my ore broke making progress difficult. We latched the boats together with rope. I rowed with great effort towing my broken vessel to our destination. My friend sat lazily watching me. It was my fault after all. It was my boat that had given up the voyage. When we came to shore, there was not one. There was no soft sand and the only trails were the tracks of small squirrels and chipmunks. The ground was difficult. Large rocks protruded from the ground and deep holes hid menacingly under moss covered roots. We tracked for a short time before we both had twisted ankles. I gave up more easily than my friend. The mountain had beaten me. We returned to the boats and I again rowed them back across the lake. The return was not easy. It refused to take us. Unlike the mountain it wanted to keep us there. We stared down into the deep uninviting water. Pulling with all my might it seemed we made no progress at all. My lazy friend had not kept an eye on the boat we were towing. It had turned and water had filled almost to the top. It nearly sank until I grabbed the boat and held it just above the water. I forced my friend to row. I was stronger than him. We argued at first, but he gave in after we wrestled. In the scuffle one of the ores went missing. I suspect the lake took it and refused to give it back. It was not a problem however since we had three more. The boats still refused to move. We were stuck in the middle of the lake, defeated again. Until a passerby caught sight of us and stopped to give us aid. The front of his boat had a light. It was dark now and his spotlight illuminated us with a golden silhouette. The elderly man, who seemed more at home in his motor boat than he would be walking down the sidewalk, hitched our boats to his own. He reminded us only a couple times how shortsighted we had been. We waited helplessly as he towed us to shore. There my friend’s parents stood with frustration and impatience.

Months later I was in the home of my father’s best friend who was recently deceased. I chatted with his wife and she told me how her husband liked to hike. I shared my story and she presented me with a picture. There was her husband, years before, standing on the same rock on which my friend and I had stood. We wanted to touch the untamed creation, to be conquerors and heroes. We weren’t the first. Here was my father’s best friend, he was there a long time ago. The image stuck in my mind and memory, forcing me there with Ammonium Thiosulfate, the photo chemicals used to immortalize my father’s best friend. In him I learned that every worn path is traveled and conquered again and again. My friend and I had rushed up mountains long since tamed. The visible signs and tread worn trails went by unacknowledged. Other mountains grow wildly and rejected the unexpected trampling of children’s boots. We misjudged just how far we could see, and learned that visions are gifts, set before a difficult climb with twisted ankles and wrestling on boats.

Photo by Drew Saurus on Unsplash

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