I am not a climber. I am weak and soft and incapable– perhaps I am fatter than usual or else just feel that way. My feet are sore and my arms ache, but we can go higher. I am crouched on an outcrop on the withers of Unicorn peak. One low, hesitant step and my peripheral vision catches the drop off. I’m unsure if I have ever such before caught the scent eminent death at great height, but now I feel the legs quake. It’s what they call exposure. I step up to a wider rock, crab-walk to safety, and firmly planted, dare to look off the other side.
The people I went to school with are, I assume, off having adult lives. But I am here, on top of a mountain named for a mythical creature with which it shares a silhouette– swimming in childlike wonder, counting my years and trying to forget them. The hostile granite expanse stokes an anti-Edenic bliss; I populate the vacuum with my shortness of breath. I am trying to imagine John Muir in hiking boots, confronted with Cathedral Peak, blossoming in plain view. The unseen and unheard marmots are, I suppose, nonplussed. Somehow, we’ll have to make it down.
Along the Tioga road home there are the thousands of scorched trees, Rim Fire casualties. Decades– it will take decades at least, perhaps centuries, for this forest to be back to what it was when I saw it a year ago. A spark, and decades are erased.
I return to whatever it is I am working on, return to treading water. I see a photo of myself on top of that rock and am dashed, my gut reaction of intense self-loathing nearly ruins the experience of memory. All I see are white walls and the dank unhappiness I’ve wrapped my own head in. All is nearly forgotten.
Lost for words, I check my mail and find them: I turn luminous in an immensity of spaces. M’illumino d’immenso. Out of context, whatever that may be, I begin to think, this could be everything– my eyesight could encompass an entire mountain range and a thousand seedling trees if I only find out how to allow it.