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From Great Heights

By Matthew Anish

A long path down the mountain. Walk carefully or you will fall and experience an early death. The land near the base of the mountain is rocky and very dangerous. Starlight is beginning to shine as we near the end or our journey. It doesn't seem to matter that we are bone - tired. We must reach base by midnight. Wonder of wonders - we do! The sight of a green tent fills us with joy. We have made (and returned from ) a successful trip up and down the mountain - this mountain that has defeated so many.

When we greet the people at base camp we are all smiles. We are famished so the cook heats up a large roast and some vegetables. The time has come for us to revel in our accomplishments. Our chatter breaks through the night air as a crackling fire warms our bodies.

One mountain has been conquered. But there are so many others. Our achievement seems almost anti climactic now. However the warm fire liberates our tired souls. One day tens of thousands of years ago mankind discovered the use of fire. It was protection against the cold. Fire and furs stripped from large animals kept our ancestors alive. Who were the intrepid few who first ventured into the cold climates? Mankind is supposed to have been nurtured at first in African savannahs. Somehow, in our wanderings, some intrepid souls reached icy areas and survived.

We are just passengers in a very long locomotive. The train has gone through jungles, deserts and has now left us near the base of a mountain. Rubbing our hands over the fire we watch the dance of the flames. It is true that we made it to the top! Night is growing all around us. Bundling ourselves up in sleeping bags we try to sleep - in spite of the excitement our return has caused. To aid us in sleeping a flask of whiskey is passed around around. It burns a little but it induces sleep and here at the base of the mountain we sleep.

Awaking later than we had for a long time we face the day after a night of vivid dreams. Once again fire provides comfort for us. We are ready to return to the village where we will celebrate our triumph at the tavern. The journey definitely seems like something one should raise a glass to. Our families are far away but we know their thoughts are with us. It seems that one step of our very long walk has been taken. We walk back - each of us with a heavy backpack.

In the village we are greeted heartily by the locals. Their weather-beaten faces light up when they see us return. We're glad to set down our packs and glad to see civilization again. The town is lit up with lanterns and we celebrate. Now we must make plans for the next step of our odyssey. But that can wait. We've traversed the first bridge on the road and we take out time before continuing our journey.

How deeply I slept that night! Dreams of mountains and ice filled my head but I always had the firm belief that there was a warm fire waiting for me at journey's end. Now I realize that we had conquered more than a mountain. We had surmounted our own internal demons of fear and indecision. Underneath warm quilt I let the dreams take over. As they must!

(C)opyright 2007 Matthew Anish All Rights Reserved

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