Monday, July 20, 2009

"I hear voices that aren't moving...."

This past weekend, me and the three guys in my life (plus two friends) went to one of our favorite places--Cashiers, NC. More than 12 years ago, Kev and I discovered this little slice of heaven-on-earth, when we took a short trip to celebrate our 10th anniversary. During that visit, we hiked to the top of Rock Mountain, and promised to celebrate our 20th anniversary by hiking it again.
On Saturday, two years and one week after our 20th anniversary, we finally kept that promise...sort of.
You see, about a third of the way up, we came to a fork in the trail where we had to decide whether to turn left and hike up the promised Rock Mountain. Or, turn right and hike up the even-taller-steeper Chimney Top Mountain. Kev and I (and Jackson and Morgan) chose Chimney Top Mountain, while Garrett and his friend, Zach, chose Rock Mountain.
I'm trying to be OK with these swiftly increasing steps our sons are taking toward independence. But...I won't's hard. So, at the fork on the mountain, I took a deep breath, said a silent prayer and let Garrett and Zach turn left. (It made be grateful that my sons have good friends to share their climbs.)
Us other three Bowdles (and Morgan) turned right. However, it wasn't long before the teenagers grew quite bored with the "old" folks' speed...or lack thereof...and decided to run ahead. (Yet another deep breath, another silent prayer, another letting go.)
Leaving just me and Kev climbing together. Eventually, I gave him "permission" to go on....He didn't....That's just Kev.
But...even though we were climbing "together" dawned on me that I also was experiencing my own journey. I saw plants and insects and lights and shadows and obstacles on the trail that Kev didn't see. And, he saw orchids and birds and views and obstacles on the trail that I didn't see.
And, when we shared these, we made each other's climbs fuller, richer, safer.
There were moments when I thought I couldn't climb one more step. At certain points, the "trail" was non-existent--nothing but rock going almost straight up--and it felt like my heart was going to pound out of my chest, my breathing was labored, and even my vision was a little off.
At these points, Kev was there with a reaching hand, an offer of rest and a drink of water from the bottle he alone had thought to bring.
Eventually...although I hadn't voiced it...something must have told him I was just about to sit down and let him go find Jackson and Morgan. Because, right about then, he said, "I hear voices that aren't moving, so we must be near the top."
And those 12 words...spoken when I needed them...were enough to keep me going.
When I think of what I would have missed had I sat makes me grateful and happy and a little sad...all at the same time. the top of the mountain...the view was...breathgiving. (Especially when I saw the face of my "No-mom-I-didn't-fall-off-the-side-of-the-mountain" 13-year-old and his buddy.)
In every direction we looked were green-covered mountains with craggy balds poking out here and there; bluish-gray lakes dotted around the valley below; and little patches of colorful rooftops peeking out among the trees. The sky above was crystal blue with puffy, white clouds gliding by and birds wheeling between our mountain and the one next door, where Garrett and Zach were climbing.
Thanks to modern technology, Kev was able to call Garrett and Zach on the cell phone. After a few minutes of waving and hollering, they saw us and we saw them. (Of course, from that distance, they looked 2 inches tall.)
We stayed there awhile...on top of that mountain...catching our breath, sharing Kev's water bottle, taking pictures, shouting back and forth to Garrett and Zach, and drinking in the beauty of creation below us, around us and above us.
One picture Kev took was of our shoe-clad feet, circling a "gold" placard set into the rock, which declared a particular spot as being the summit of Chimney Top Mountain.
Which got me to wondering. How many summits have I not reached because I got tired of the climb? How many breath-giving vistas have I not witnessed because I was afraid of the imagined danger-filled cliffs that lay ahead? How many beautiful memories have I not made because I gave up when the trip got hard?
Those are the questions that cause me to be just a little bit sad as I sit here and remember Chimney Top Mountain.
Eventually, the time came to head back down to the valley. For most of us, mountaintops are not meant to be lived on...simply enjoyed for a few exceptional moments. It's the memories of them that linger and help us remember the meanings of beauty and majesty and wonder.
So, I took one more drink from Kev's water bottle, enjoyed one more 360-degree-view and yelled one more warning at the already-rapidly-descending teenagers--"Remember, pay attention. The trip down is more dangerous than the trip up!"
Then, Kev and I started walking.
About halfway, I looked back at a part of the trail where we had just been. And, there, tucked under one of the thousands of ferns growing along the trail, was a fist-sized bunch of tiny purple flowers.
In some odd way, that almost-hidden, almost-missed bouquet was as wonderful as the majesty of the summit. It reminded me that, even when I'm not on the mountaintop, beautiful little surprises are all along the journey. Many times, I don't even recognize them...except in "the looking back." It makes me long for the Creator to "open the eyes of my heart" so that I don't miss any of His almost-hidden, constantly-present surprises.
Near the bottom, Kev and I made a wrong turn, which took us on a different, longer trail than we had intended...or wanted. But, this detour held surprises of its own--startled chipmunks dashing back to the woods, laughing toddlers running ahead of their just-trying-to-keep-up parents, golfing "seniors" smiling proudly when their swings hit the green, and the view of the mountain we had just climbed.
Eventually, we made it to our table in the dining room of the lodge, where we heard all about Garrett and Zach's adventures up "their" mountain. (FYI, Bear Grylls has nothing on those two.)
And they heard all about ours.
In many ways, that Saturday hike is our "story." For 22 years and one week, we've been walking, climbing, descending, ending up on paths we didn't expect, getting lost and getting found.
And, all along the way, Kev's steadying hand has reached out when the climb got tough. Often, with no words, he has kept me going, kept me believing that "we must be near the top."
During that climb, two beautiful, wonderful sons have joined our journey. But...faster than either of us would choose...they will set out on their own journeys with their own companions. they leave...with the help of Kev's steadying hand...I'll take a deep breath, say a silent prayer and let them go climb their own mountains.
So...even though it's more than a week late...Happy Anniversary, Kev! You make the journey fuller, richer, safer...more filled with laughter, adventure and love.

The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.

He lets me rest in green meadows;

He leads me beside peaceful streams.

He renews my strength.

He guides me along right paths,bringing honor to his name.

Even when I walk through the darkest valley,

I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.

Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.

You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies.

You honor me by anointing my head with oil.

My cup overflows with blessings.

Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life,

and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.

(Psalm 23, NLT....This Psalm was sung at our wedding on July 11, 1987)

Blessed be God, our mountain….
He's the rock on which we stand, the castle in which we live,…
The high crag where we run for safety….

Make our sons in their prime like sturdy oak trees,…
How blessed the people who have all this!

How blessed the people who have God for God!
(A few verses from Psalm 144, The Message)

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