(Keeping in mind Keats’s poem “ On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer”)
After twenty days, you feel ready to face the glacier and come to terms with your own barrenness and harshness. At that altitude, no flowers, no birds to comfort you and release you from your existential angst. You must bring enough life in you to stand up to the surrounding desert. Bracing up for an expected fight between darkness and light, fullness and emptiness; your resilience will be tested by a full space of emptiness and void. By your fear of heights, your fear of the fog, your fear of the truthfulness and exposure involved in such an experience.
Yet, trusting in the result because you know you are not alone. “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want, I shall cross the Valley of Death without fear” (ps. 22).
Glare of light. Ocean of snow not unlike an ocean of water. Yet, to each wilderness its own call—“call of the wild” the mountain way.
The glacier is melting. Entire streams of water flowing out, like blood hemorrhaging out of a wound.
Streams that have to be crossed. Noticed. Heard. Ineluctable march of time and human action over space.
The glacier has receded. It has aged. Like you, it shows the wear and tear of elapsed months and years. Magic can still be discerned but its awe-inspiring gaping mouth is twisted in a deadly grin.
A cascade actually flowing out of the glacier. Poised between snow and sky. And, in the distance, green valleys and trees give comfort to the eye away from the glare of the sun on the rocks and snow. Rebirth.
Today’s hike: the trail is not to be taken or grasped, or even followed. It is not given but earned. You have to fight for it in the snow, in the stones, from rock to rock. You embrace the challenge of going where you have never been before. Narrow ridge between two cliffs, higher and higher, signing your way into different Cairns. Until finally you reach the ledge on the top where—o surprise—tiny flowers are waiting, as white as the snow at your feet.
Minimalist landscape, life reduced to bare essentials. Hot sun. Sunburn as a lesson against human arrogance.
Dwindling glacier—still, daunting presence. Memories receding into oblivion like ice receding under scorching heat into water and nothingness.
Collapsing of time and space. Six years. Eight years. Two years.
Biting cold. Pure air. Solitude. Yet, you can hear some music off some hiker’s radio— Depeche Mode tune bringing back whiff of teenage years and their own pristine landscape and biting aroma.
On top of the mountain: a cave. Next hideout? Creeping in there through the power of the imagination. Enjoying its coolness and remoteness. Movie line from Deliverance comes to mind: “No one can find us up here”. Delivered from what, you wonder? Does deliverance always imply rupture, even trauma?
Letting go. Relief. Happiness. Peace. Sudden and full.
Overlooking the glacier, taking in its full size and scope. Considering its presence. Looking for personal landmarks, old ones, new ones, up to the very recent ones. The pass down below has become your favorite, now. Hush, hush. Its magic belongs to the secret and silence of your high altitude companions. It seems that you can spot out two tiny figures in the distance, sitting on top of its rolling shape. Puny ghosts bound by fate, for better or for worse.
Skyfall. His (Bond’s). And your own. Rebirth sealed in the soundless world of your encounter with the icy nada.
By a green lake, sheep are frolicking about. Lambs following their mothers faithfully, grazing some invisible food that they only can see. Are the one sheep straying from the flock? Your Shepherd will look for you, find you and comfort you. Restore you to life.
Rock sculptures bringing back the “demoiselles coiffées” of some childhood vacation. Feeling whole in the same wonder.
Spikes and slices and wedges of stone and rock. Trying to negotiate your way among slabs, big and small, with occasional ice and snow. Rolling rocks under your feet; your fears and apprehension are lulled about according to the moves of the fog. Back and forth, coming up, receding, back, away.
And, then, the shrine, the Madonna. Fortitude. Once and for all.