“Forgiveness says you are given another chance at making a new beginning.”
It has been some time since my last blog post and I really can’t seem to give a reason why… life, sickness, commitments, lack of time, energy, or just in need of a break… perhaps all of the above. Needless to say, the quest never did cease, it simply slowed down and took a bit of a hiatus. Here I sit today in my office with stories embedded in my mind of adventures I have been on and it is time to get writing once again.
Not so long ago, I decided that it was time to tackle the mountain just down the way from where I live. I had been post-op for several months and I was in need of inspiration. It is the kind of inspiration that only the mountain could provide. You see, this mountain is quite unique to me. It speaks to me. Yes, you heard me correctly… you know that voice that sometimes urges you to do something challenging or something you are in need of. Well, that is what the mountain does for me. When I am feeling a bit lost or weak, it has a tendency to call to me. “Michele, come climb up my trail and sit on my boulders and watch the world from above…”
The first time I heard this calling, I thought I was going to be deemed a “Looney bird”! Instead, what I found was a lesson in learning how to be still… how to listen… how to see things from a different perspective… how to appreciate the small things, such as the tiniest purple wild flowers that grew alongside the rocks that would only be noticed if one took a moment to sit and be still. Yes, and so it was on this most recent day not so long ago, the mountain called and I had to go.
I donned my shorts and hiking shoes, grabbed Jet’s leash and with eager anticipation we both took the first steps of this impromptu invitation and off we were. We walked down the road and opened the cattle gate leading up the mountain. The cattle gate is in place to protect the wild horses from meandering down into the roads and neighborhoods. With the cattle gate secure, and the both of us on the other side, it felt like we had stepped onto the yellow brick road with the path winding to the top of the mountain high above.
It is a dry desert mountain, no greenery to speak of except for the wild flowers that bloom in spring and early summer. Sage is the dominant shrub that inhabits most of the mountainside and as I began my walk at dusk I could pick up the intense aroma of sage. The sun was still about an hour from sinking behind the mountains and yet this was hardly a thought as my mind spent every second surveying the landscape to see if there had been any changes since the last time I had visited. What I found was that there were no changes that I could readily detect.
As we began to climb, I took Jet off leash as there were no others on the path up the mountain that I could see. Jet immediately went over to inspect each side of the path as if not to miss picking up a single scent. He would look back at me every so often to make sure I was ok. I was more than ok but occupied with the question of why it was I was climbing the mountain. My surgery scar was still a bit tender and I knew this wasn’t exactly the best thing I should do, but I heard the invitation and I knew I was meant to receive something on this hike.
With every step, I thought about the path that I had taken in the past… how more than a year ago I had completed a vision quest on this mountain… It was the same vision quest that instructed me to go on this year-long quest of adventure… and yet, here I was again, climbing this mountain in a similar blind state, wondering what the hike would bring.
Step after step, I climbed ever higher and on occasion would stop, look back and take in the view. I would look at where I began, see where I was, and then be still and just breathe. The sky was beginning to darken and I felt like I was racing against the clock now to get to the top. So, off I went… taking pictures along the way but mostly just engaging my mind in an internal dialogue of nothing more than the seriousness of life.
And before I could delve too far into the conversation, I saw a band of wild mustangs and called for Jet to come close. Jet rarely ever gets too close to the horses, but he has befriended a few. So far, none have felt threatened by Jet and so I was at ease with him being off leash. As we rounded one of the curves along the path, there to our right was a beautiful and very newborn horse! He was still wobbly on his spindly legs and highly curious about Jet. He took a few steps towards us and his Mom took 4 steps in front of him as if to protect him from my canine companion. In a commanding voice, I ordered Jet to stay, but he had a mind of his own. Jet slowly yet deliberately walked right up to the baby horse and within a flash a brown and white pinto male mustang leapt in front of Jet and stomped loudly on the ground! My mouth opened and it felt as if my heart had stopped. At first glance, I thought Jet had taken a stomp on the paw as he jumped and seemed to limp off. I stood in shock of what had just occurred. Jet has never had an aggressive action taken toward him by one of the mustangs and yet, as Jet’s Mom, I sort of thought, “Well, that will teach you to leave the babies alone!” Jet came running up to me with that sort of embarrassed yet confident look to him… as if not wanting to admit his mistake… yet, it was certainly a sight to see. I looked down and tried to check him out and at the same time I said, “Jet, you didn’t listen my friend…” I put Jet on leash just in case. We stood and watched the baby frolic about as newborn horses do. His Mom and Dad were quite willing to allow me to photograph their little blessing they had recently delivered.
I wondered what joy had filled their hearts when this little one came into the world and how fiercely protective they were. And yet, if the Dad wanted to do harm to Jet, he certainly had the opportunity to do so. What stopped him? Was he used to humans? Did he simply detect Jet’s innocent curiosity? Or did he just know that we weren’t there to harm them, but rather admire their beauty? Perhaps a combination of all and with that revelation, we were off to climb the mountain yet again. We took it slow in spots, and in others I tried to push myself a little bit more. The views were becoming incredible with every 50 feet I climbed. Then before I knew it, there in front of me was my spot. A rock made just for sitting… not too big, not too small, just perfect.
I sat down and Jet sat with me. I looked out at the world and it all seemed so small… so insignificant at the moment. The cars looked like ants. There were even horses dotting the mountainside, but it all just didn’t matter in that moment… the worries were hardly a thought, the challenges quickly forgotten, difficulties I had recently faced, never even crossed my mind. Instead, I sat and thought about opportunities, possibilities, hopes and dreams… as if they had been carefully planted in the fertile tissue that comprised this brain of mine. I sat and a smile emerged like a gift.
Yes, it all looked so promising from high up on that mountaintop; as if it were the only thing I could really see clearly. All those thoughts of what the future held seemed to stream from the sun on the last rays as they reached from the mountainous horizon and touched my eyes like a laser beam. Quiet is what followed… And then excitement and anticipation…. Another smile and I closed my eyes. I could feel the heat of the fading sun on my neck, and could still pick up the scent of sage in the air and I could hear the flutter of wings of a butterfly that made her last performance before curtain call.
My head tilted to the right, as if to rest my neck for just a moment and I was content. Indeed, this is the perspective I needed as I started this quest up again. Promises of a message delivered on the rays of sun and applauded by the flapping of butterfly wings. A deep breath in and I opened my eyes and Jet sat next to me in a trance-like state just watching the world go by. One last look as if to sear into my memory and then I whispered, “Thank you for the view, the inspiration, the words… so much to do. “
Jet and I stood up and started the trek down. As we made our descent down the loose rock path there were a couple of times when I nearly lost my footing. A little squeak was let out and a quick reaction to regain balance and then a giggle let loose for how close I came to kissing the rocks below. Alas, the sun had now set and we approached the band of wild horses that Jet had tried to befriend on our way up the mountain. At this point Jet was off leash and knowing that he had a good memory, I knew he wouldn’t be brazen enough to try to make friends with that little baby horse again.
As we walked past, I heard horse steps behind me. Jet dashed away from my side, running the other direction. I quickly spun around and again couldn’t believe my eyes!!! The brown and white horse was making a beeline for Jet and Jet was doing the same with him. I quickly clicked the camera to snap a blurry pic, but I stopped as I stood in shock again…. I gasped with a touch of fear that perhaps there was another warning that was needed to be rendered to Jet… but alas, that is not at all what took place! I stood in a paralyzed state, not knowing what to do, but trying to trust Jet’s instincts. They were finally nose to nose! Jet and this horse sort of nuzzled each other by their noses as if the Dad meant to say, “Hey, sorry about what happened earlier… you’re a cool canine… I was just doing what a Dad’s supposed to do, protecting my little one.” And Jet’s response was something along the line of, “No apology needed… you’re pretty cool yourself!” And with a deep sigh of relief escaping my body like a message to the heavens… Jet turned around and came back to me. The Dad just looked up at me with those sweet eyes…. I looked to the left and the Mom and baby were sticking together like glue, not at all bothered at the hundred pics I couldn’t help but take at that moment… something told me she appreciated the adoration from afar.
As we stood there I could feel the sense of urgency to return home in the form of an annoying pinch on my right leg. I knew in an instant what this might be! A very hungry and thirsty mosquito was taking advantage of my state of entrancement by the loving sight I had stopped to admire. So, with a slap to my leg hoping to have squashed the little bugger, I told Jet, “It’s time to head home, babe!” And just like that, I had but only one thought, “There’s no place like home… there’s no place like home….”
As we exited through the cattle gate and secured it behind us, we were back to life, back to reality… the view was much different… Everything was big and very much real. But in that instant, I held on to what I heard, felt and saw up on that mountaintop. I made the very real decision not to let the worries and concerns enter my mind…. They will all be dealt with in due time and until then, I was going to focus on the gifts that were presented to me on my journey to the top of the world.
It was in witnessing new life, and the fierce protection of it, that love was the message. It was in sitting high on top of the world where everything seemed so small, that problems melted away and hopes, dreams and plans took their place… all delivered in the dead of silence, but illuminated by the brilliance of the fiery setting sun. It was finding my balance and not slipping and falling that I was reminded that none of this is easy, but the key is trying to stay upright and focused. And it was in a tender conciliatory moment between a horse and a dog, that I saw great love through apology and understanding. Four legged friends came nose-to-nose and all was forgiven and new life was celebrated.
Yes, it was in the 100 yards back home that I looked back at the mountain and whispered, “Thank you for calling me home… good things are yet to come with new perspective, an understanding of forgiveness of the past and celebration of the possibilities that await.”
Wondering where this yellow brick road will lead…