We finally came down out of the mountains.
After more than a week of going up higher, down lower and up higher yet, we finally reached the end of our walk around Mont Blanc and began to go down, down, down to the small city where we would catch a train and return to Paris.
By now there were no new places for blisters to form on my feet. The pack felt like a permanent growth on my back. I had skinned my knee and my nose had already burned and peeled. I had ripped through two pairs of shorts and used up a package and a half of moleskin. Now we were descending down steep switchbacks into the valley.
It did not occur to me till later that I had chosen to climb over a mountain on my birthday as a personal rite of passage “over the hill.” But even if I was oblivious to the irony, I became keenly aware of the joy in letting gravity have its way. As I took the switchbacks one after another, I thought of the tremendous energy it had taken to get to the top of the mountain and marveled at the relative ease with which I was going down. Even with blistered toes jammed into the ends of my boots, I pitied the people we met climbing up, glistening with sweat, shoulders heaving as they rounded the next corner to face another switchback headed up. Focusing intently on each step as I hit loose gravel, I felt gravity pull me forward. It was good to give in to the pull.
Back home now, I am packing for a new city, a new adventure. It seems that the decision I made to apply to grad school happened a long time ago. Now all that remains is to put some clothes in my truck, empty my refrigerator, decide what handful of books I cannot do without, dispose of a few houseplants.
It feels like I am going downhill— in a good way.
I used to believe that anything worthwhile took effort and the path of least resistance was rarely the most scenic. As a result, I spent a lot of time hiking uphill along a steep and narrow path. I became a good climber and I am not sorry I chose the path I did.
But I’m beginning to understand that now, on the other side of the hill, balance becomes more important than strength. Building momentum is no longer critical and dexterity is essential. Earlier in life I would have fretted about whether I had worked hard enough, prepared sufficiently, gathered enough information. Now I am happy to begin this new expedition in my life with relatively little thought or preparation. Now I am ready to let my new surroundings surprise me. I have climbed enough. The momentum is on my side and I am eager and excited to see where it will take me.
Headed down the mountain, I fell again (on the same knee) but even with my bloody knee, I knew the way forward was easier than it had been climbing up. Of course there will be tumbles. Of course there will be missteps. I am moving faster now. I have gravity on my side.
Daniel and I arrived at the bottom of the mountain suddenly and too soon. The day was sunny and we sat in a cafe under an umbrella and marveled at the snow-capped mountain we had just climbed. It felt good. It felt good to be over the hill.
Till next time,