Mike, Drew Fields, Ron Telepietra (sp?), and myself hiked up Mt. Monondak in New Hampshire yesterday morning.
The first leg of the journey is an old toll road leading up (and around the side, I suppose) the mountain. We exchange current events while walking up the grade. Ron is a height junkie; he apparently has a hobby of conquering the highest point in any given geographical division (state, county, town, building—I wonder if he might suddenly stand on a dinner table during polite conversation). “That was the highest point in the county” he relates during the descent, “I don’t know which county this is—but, that was it’s highest point.” Ron hikes in sneakers. Drew is who he is.
On the road, noting every step before attempting it, I notice a troupe of orange newts slowly scrambling across the wide rocky battlefield of sand and rock. Our footfall, like traversing earthquakes, perhaps frightens the fellows into stillness. Who are these resounding rubber-treaded gods above us? A spotted scout nearest my forward boot turns his smiling (have you noticed the smile of lizards) tight yellow lips toward me. I may be merely a resident of bogs and puddles, but you admire my design and decoration; I’ve stopped the mighty moving tread and these bow for a closer look. He is correct, his slick slender body at home amphibious, above that he’s just cute; I would not venture to surmise his contemplation later that day on the nature and vanity of human pursuits. He begins to step away and we continue.
The sky today is more liquid than air; once we pass into the first parts of altitude we walk in a hazy orb of forest and boulders, unable to see very far along our route beyond the next few steps. As we near the top, trees clear away and we scurry up the grey granite face. The air here is so thick with moisture that we cannot see more than fifty feet or so. By this time my domestic strength breakfast had expended and I (being a fatless entity) am without fuel. Soaking wet with sweat and sky, I sit down on an outcropping and look out over—well, into a bank of clouds. There is no sound of industry, only wind pushing gently against the mountainside. On the stone before me, are two entwined insects either devouring one another or mating—or both? Another larger and camouflaged bug stutteringly wanders by minding his own business. Isolated, a hundred feet of rock two-thousand feet above, are three insects and a man in a whirlwind. Thoreau and Emerson (and other three-name people) frequented these rocks. I don’t think their feet carved out so much of the place as God has though. Thousands of seekers ascend to the peaks here annually attempting communion with the wandering spirit of Thoreau but pass by the pervading spirit of God. I hear a voice calling from the mist above (Mike, not God), better get on my feet again and continue climbing.
At the top, Mike offers me a welcome cereal bar. We sit, with a half-dozen other equally dripping calmly contemplative others, and munch. Time to descend; as we near the arrow pointing distinctly “Down”, a hawk glides through an opening in the clouds. “Look” shouts Drew, “big bird.” Drew’s exclusion of “a” before the words “big bird” brings upon us a fit of high-altitude imaginings and humor. We shall begin scriptwriting for “The Muppets Conquer Everest” in late August or early September.
Mike is off to backpack through the remainder of the week. I’ve the days alone to write or wander the streets, camera in hand and unobtrusive. Have Mike take you to the Muddy Waters café during your visit—tastefully alternative with a shot of bookdust.
If you have sadness to bear, do not bear it alone. Distress in a room alone is the worst to endure—and doubly painful if inflicted upon ourselves. I know and risk that gloom every day; it is the great temptation that leads to many others. I am alone and will revel in the pain of stark aloneness. That state of dark revelry is no strength; it is a disguise of pride, I think. The world of “Alone” is a painful cavern of crippling falls. Never wish to stand alone when God is all about you and within—and others are alone nearby. This morning, at the kitchen table typing a letter, listening to choral chant, I am unsure but not distraught.