Living in the mountains of Western Maine offered several delightful memories including breathtaking vistas all year whether verdant spring greens, a dramatic pallet of fall colors, or white cotton snow. After living near oceans, in the subtropics, and the desert southwest, my favorite place to call home remains among mountains, now the mountains of western North Carolina. Other geographical sites offer their own beauty, but the mountains… they offer a splendor, ofttimes beyond words. We can observe the weather-worn peaks of our mountains close-up or far away, each one with its own unique beauty.
Observing these magnificent mountains generates a deep sense of appreciation, climbing them takes us to other peaks of gratitude, including respect, joy, exuberance, satisfaction, and maybe fear. Doesn’t traveling through life offer those same levels of recognition? So then, climbing a mountain could equate with moving through life, not only on the cited levels but many others. No wonder wise sages, philosophers, poets, screenwriters, and many others use the analogy of climbing a mountain when contemplating life.
My good friend and mentor, Ken Two Feathers, compared life to climbing a mountain. “We’re all climbing the same mountain. There may be different paths for different people, but we’re seeking the same summit. We all have our own path, and the path we choose is the one that feels right to us.” Not everyone has the same path. That is an essential truth. Someone may not be doing the same thing as you or I. It may be entirely different from our way of thinking. As long as no one and nothing is being hurt as they climb their mountain, who are we to criticize?
As a path is chosen to scale a mountain, it is determined based on our own abilities and limitations. We decide to hike a particular way because it suits us. It fits us. Others may follow, but they will not experience it in the same manner. We can even show others a route to take, but they have to hike it to experience it. We cannot walk it for them.
When obstacles block or complicate the hike, we may choose to walk around, climb over, or even temporarily seek another route to avoid the obstacle. No one else can hike it for us. We must place one foot in front of the other and continue to move forward. A guide can point the way, but it is we that must make the journey to learn. Even if we follow someone else’s lead, choices remain, to continue, rest, or quit. Screenwriter J. Michael Straczynski once said, “Never follow somebody else’s path; it doesn’t work the same way twice for anyone… the path follows you and rolls up behind you as you walk, forcing the next person to find their own way.”
When you think about climbing a mountain from this perspective, living life takes on a deeper meaning. In life, it is easier to follow someone else who’s been there. That is an excellent first choice, but at some point, we must move ahead on our own to learn our own life’s lessons. The juvenile fledgling will never learn to fly until it leaves the safety of the nest. Sometimes the parent pushes it out because she really does love her offspring.
So how do we create our own pathway as we scale the mountain? The answer is simple. The action may not be. As we walk our path one step at a time, gather and evaluate information from our friends and mentors. How does their guidance relate to us and our own needs and circumstances? Some advice may fit well while another may not. We must choose. When we falter, don’t give up. Stop. Evaluate. Choose an alternative, and move on, one step at a time, then another, and so on. We may still seek wise counsel on how to proceed from the same people or new ones we meet along the way, but they do not walk the path for us; we must walk the trail on our own. We may even strike out and blaze a brand new trail. Move forward. Keep moving. Seek rest when needed. Make sure to take what you need along the way and above all, enjoy the journey! That’s the way we climb life’s mountain path.
Our reward, like climbing any mountain, is the elated sense of accomplishment we claim, for our own, when we view the world from the summit of life’s lessons.
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