It’s been a month since I last posted. It has been a month. Part of the month has been hectic with life interruptions such as ground water in the basement, the AC going out during a heat spell, property vandalism and theft, and just life stuff. Part of the month has been muddled due to the fog that comes with treatment. (I really don’t like that interruption.) Part of the month has been spent pondering mountains.
A few weeks ago I began writing about mountains but it sounded like a travelogue so I set it aside. Well, I set it aside physically, but in the less muddled moments it would come back into play. During this time of pondering I began reading a biography that is new to me and in the first sentence of the fifth page, one of the mountain ranges most spectacular to me was mentioned. I knew then I needed to return to the mountains. I needed to keep pondering.
The mountains draw many people to them. They can be breathtaking challenging, awe-inspiring, and any number of wonderful adjectives.I’m one of those persons who loves the mountains in the winter. I love the snow covered mountains and the rush that comes from skiing over the snow while the fresh cold air meets my face. Once one learns to navigate the lifts it’s quite easy to get to the top. I love the many memories of times spent with friends and family on the slopes in the Rockies. It is a treasured rangefor me.
Lately, my wandering thoughts have taken me back to several ranges.
If you have read previous posts, it should not surprise you that some of these ranges are in Germany and Austria. My first exposure to ranges in Austria comes from spending a year living in the foothills of the eastern alps. To say it is scenic is to do a disservice. While the people, experiences and work of that year were pivotal in many aspects of my life, the surroundings made an impact as well. In my pondering, I have mentally retraced steps from the Haus we lived in to Preinsfeld and back. I have walked to the Stift (Monastery) inHeiligenkruez and have sat overlooking the meadow where I rested and reflecting with friends.
And as I have shared these photos with my daughter, I have answered her question, “what are you wearing?”
Truth be told, we fit in with the locals who regularly hiked in the Wienerwald (the Vienna Woods.)
During that twentieth year of my life, I was fortunate to experience the spectacularTatras. This is the range mentioned in the biography I am reading. The Vysoké Tatry or the High Tatras, are in the northern part of Slovakia and border Poland. At the time I was there, Slovakia was Czechoslovakia and in short order it became one of my favorite places on earth. While the surroundings are breathtaking, the people are what captured me first. My first trip to Czechoslovakia involved an English camp for a group of high school students. English classes were held in the morning and in the afternoon we would hike in the Tatras. Day one of hiking was when I learned that our definitions of “hike” were different. Our hikes would often be for more than 7 hours up the mountain. The kids didn’t seem to tire and the hours provided great time to get to know them better and work on language skills. But, it wasn’t easy getting up those mountains.
The Tatras remain the most majestic mountains I have seen. Seeing the Tetons a few years back made me catch my breath as they come close to the splendor of that range. They are fierce, rugged and powerful.
At this moment I’m remembering one of the best parts of that trip to the Tatras. I connected with a young friend, Radek. He taught me Czech words as we climbed and even raced down the mountain. I taught him English words and a song about a little green frog. He was much younger than the campers, but was an eager participant and sweet friend.On one of the afternoons, there was a welcome reprieve from hiking and we enjoyed an afternoon on a beautiful mountain lake. Reprieves can be so refreshing.
A few years ago, I revisited some European ranges. I loved returning to the Tyrolean Alps in Austria and of course, in Germany.Pieces of my heart have been left in these countries and the beauty they possess is part of the reason. I can’t think of adequate words to describe what I feel when I am there.
There are challenges I face when I am in the Alps, I welcome them for the most part. The challenges of communicating in a second language, of respecting and appreciating different cultures, of negotiating different modes of transportation, and of processing this while seeking to go about everyday life are challenges I embrace. These challenges are mountains I choose to climb.
Sometimes getting to the top of a mountain is fairly easy. Taking the lifts in the Rockies is not much of a challenge any more. Taking the train to the top of the Zugspitze (the highest peak in Germany) isn’t much of a challenge. Well, thanks to years of language study, it isn’t much of a challenge. It was worth the work and all that the adventure entailed. The view was phenomenal and my companions were exemplary.
I have returned to these mountains many times in the past month as my mind has been pondering and dreaming. I have breathed in the fresh air and felt the cool wind against my face. These ascents have been ones I would repeat. Even the climbs in the Tatras, which took far more physical exertion than the mountains hikes in Germany and Austria, are worth repeating. Those climbs were intense and challenging. They were exhausting but we did it and returned to climb again. Because of the climbs, I believe the reprieve on the lake was appreciated all the more.
In the past several months, I have reflected on a smaller mountain. Physically it is much smaller than the ranges I have been writing about. South Mountain in Phoenix AZ is a mountain that represents a climb I am on right now. My first job out of college was at the American Cancer Society (ACS) in Phoenix. Newly wed, we moved to Arizona where I began working for ACS and became the Public Education Manager for the Central Region (basically the greater Phoenix population) which meant I was responsible for health education in the corporate sector and in the school system. One of the major fund raisers for our region was “Climb the Mountain, Conquer Cancer.” The event is still held each year where cancer survivors and ACS supporters climb South Mountain to raise money for cancer research and resources for cancer patients and their families. I remember taking three high school girls with me to the event to help pass out sunscreen to participants. We made the climb (which physically wasn’t too daunting) after attending to the responsibilities of my job. Twenty-seven years ago that climb was easy. Now…the climb is a little tougher.
I feel like I’m climbing a mountain. Some days the hike isn’t as taxing. Some days it’s absolutely exhausting. Some days I don’t think I’m getting much closer to the top. Last week I celebrated reaching a plateau — the halfway point in treatment — but was aware that there is a lot of climbing still to be done. I don’t like this climb. I haven’t liked the past month as things have been more muddled and life stuff has interrupted our effort to have routine. I don’t like feeling that I sometimes have in my heart that the climb will continue far too long. But I know in my head that I’m getting closer to the top of this mountain. I’m closer than yesterday.
I’m throwing in my faith disclaimer. If you’ve read to this point, I thank you. If you don’t want to read further, that’s okay…I’m still glad you came this far.
Some time in the recent past, a young lady my daughter befriended in Zambia directed her to some Old Testament verses. She shared these verses with my daughter along with some thoughts that were given to her about my climb . I received a video text from my daughter reading these verses and those thoughts to me. Tears came to both our faces.
Isaiah 40: 3-5
A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert
a highway for our God.
4 Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain.
5 And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
This is my prayer — may this climb be a means to prepare the way for the Lord. May He be seen in me through this. I still don’t want to be climbing this mountain. I still hate it. But, may His glory be revealed.
I am confident that the day will come when the rough ground will be made level. What a reprieve that will be. I will be glad when this climb is over. As hard as it can be, I’m glad I’m closer than yesterday.