high above the plain

IMAG1294this time the road is not blocked. i am able to make it to the trailhead. i am relieved to see no other cars. it is important to be underprepared for the mountains, to lack adequate footwear, adequate clothes. with a foot of snow on the ground, i am underdressed. running shoes and long underwear. i am in the mountains because there is fight in the mountains. and peace. and prayer. the dark peace of a temporary ceasefire. a soldier’s peace. in the mountains i am embattled by the snow and cold and wind. amidst the rocky crags echoes the promise of combat, tumbling ricochets as fatal as anything aimed, the faint but unmistakeable tightenings of the joists and pulleys that hold a body together, that caution a body, that inform a body to pay attention in order to live. i feel at hand the exhilaration of desperate effort. now. i crash out onto the trail. the path at first is obvious but will grow more subtle as i climb. how far will i go. it doesn’t matter. all that matters is crashing forward, tumbling forward. already my lungs are starting to heave, my body to register the effort of upward movement. i am closing in on the mental terrain of my dreams, of thinking just split seconds ahead in time, not hours or days or months, which do not exist, but mere fractions of seconds, the next collision with the earth, and then the next, and the next, pursuing that moment when my weight suspends in space, my burden suspends in midair, and i am neither rising nor falling, just hanging above the snow. in that moment is the dark peace i am looking for. as i run and climb, the snow changes, everything transforms second to second. here the snow is a little deeper, here the thought occurs to do something about the snow spilling in, to stop, to reach down with your fingers, but you are unable to stop, unable to slow down. the trail is long, the snow is endless, you have just begun. no, there will be no stopping, not yet, in the next instant the snow changes from powder to breakable crust, you have to make adjustments because the trail is slippery, treacherous, several times you stumble, fall, bracing your collision with the snow with outstretched hands. with each tumble, you feel a momentary panic, the panic of lost equilibrium, lost balance. it is good, it is why you have come, the stutter step, the step in which the ground gives way beneath you, the snow giving way to roots giving way to loose boulders, this is the fight you can never dispel from your mind, that leads you now onto snowcovered trails in long underwear, hunting for a trail that fades in and out amidst the rock and trees and mountain. what matters now is efficient travel, moving swiftly without interruption, without injury, without catastrophe, both mindless and mindful. you run with your hands slightly open, not balled up against the cold, ready to absorb your fall, you glide your feet so you are floating and not moving too far up and away from the earth, because it is your ankles that need protecting. you are careful with your ankles, even as you negotiate boulders and stumps just below the surface of the snow, even as you slip and slide and crash and tumble, moving with a purpose, moving like something stricken, something in the hunt, something fleeing. at times the trail is obstructed by fallen trees you clamber over or crawl beneath, sometimes on your hands and knees, but never stopping. time and again it seems you have lost the trail as you ascend, lost the trail in the shadows of the woods, but then the slight contours of the track, despite the snow, reveal itself, and you continue. everything depends on your unceasing movement, your movement up the mountain. this is how you will will make it. two hours pass and you are still climbing. the snow deepens in the higher elevation. the trail fades out and then reestablishes itself. but you are no longer so concerned with the trail. the trail no longer matters, all that matters is going up as long as you can, despite the ricochets, despite the snow, despite the cold, despite the slipping and falling, racing now to get to the objective, the top of the mountain ridge. you can sense it nearing, the light is somehow different, there is more sky, the trees are further apart, you fixate on your movement, the suspending in time of your weight, of your burden, of your body, the sinking down into the snow and losing of your footing and sliding and grasping and heaving and gasping and pressing on and up towards the rim of the sky, towards the place where you may catch your breath and rest high above the plain. IMAG1324