hoedls haven
Where Nature is the source of all artistic expression

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

In a recent conversation concerning mountain climbing, my father-in-law commented to me, "I don't know why anyone would want to go to the top of any mountain. I've never had the desire to go to the top of anything just to look down on where I've been..."

My father-in-law is one of the last of the rustic cynicists, but he does make a great point. And in my experience as a novice mountain climber talking to other experienced climbers, I've broken climbers into four categories, which may also be adapted to those of us on our life journey:

The climb is about the conquest and conquer
The climb is about the adventure
The climb is all about the person
The climb is about the mountain itself

For me, I haven't climbed enough yet to categorize myself, but I would like to think that I find myself in Quadrant 4 above. This much I do know: I'm an anticipator. I simply love the anticipation prior to any event, moment or accomplishment.

I love prepping and mailing out our annual Christmas family newsletter. I enjoy making arrangements and giving updates for our annual college gathering after Christmas. I'm a person who truly enjoys a good countdown to a space shuttle launch, a New Year's Eve or the start of a race. I relish the moments leading up to a twist in the plot of a movie. And I particularly enjoy the weeks leading up to a vacation as much as I do the vacation itself. Bottom line: I'm an anticipator. Perhaps this is why I enjoy the whole physical and cerebral experience of mountain climbing.

Years ago I read the book Zen and the Art of Motorcyle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig; it's the epic tale of a summer motorcyle trip undertaken by a father and son which becomes a philosophical journey into the fundamental questions of how to live one's life. As they approach the Continental Divide in Montana and they view the mountains, there is a comment made (paraphrased) that "the goal of life is not the top, for the it's the sides of the mountain that sustain life..." Again, as an anticipator, I would have to agree.

For each summit to the top of Mt. Rainier I've made, I would spend one entire day in mountain climbing school, one day hiking/climbing to 10,000 ft. (Camp Muir) and then an additional six-seven hours of night/early morning climbing to get to the summit. All of this prep and climbing for a short-lived one-half hour on the summit. And let's not forget that one has to climb all the way back down to Camp Muir (1o,000 ft.) and then all the way back down to Paradise in Mt. Rainier National Park. It's a roundtrip hike of 18 miles - again, all for one-half hour summit visit.

Any climber knows there is a certain amount of probability with any climb which may or may not result in a successful summit; there are numerous variables to consider. As guides will tell you on any climb, "Be safe, first and foremost. And at whatever altitude you finish - whether it's on top or along the way, that is your 'summit.'" For those of us who are healthy anticipators, mountain climbing becomes a wonderful and meaningful journey, all along the way - we are successful and winners whether we make it to the summit or not.

So, are you an anticipator as well, my friend, or is it all about the end result for you? These are two power drives within each of us and they come into play with the Christmas season; we're so frenzied preparing for the holiday to arrive while at the same time, we love the moments leading up to the day itself.

Promise yourself this holiday season to be a much greater anticipator. Take time out of your schedule to go sledding, build a snowman, carol in your neighborhood, purchase a wreath for a loved one... Take time out to develop a list of meaningful (not necessarily expensive) gifts for loved ones and friends. Anticipate fully the joy that is to come on Christmas morning, but also be mindful of the "Christmas morning joy" that is occurring around you each day; little meaningful gifts of love and fellowship and hope. As well, take time after Christmas to celebrate that joy that has come into the world - fight back the urge to take down the tree and decorations too quickly.

Be a Quadrant 4 climber, my friend, during this season. The summit will come soon enough, so be sure to stop, catch your breath and take in the view from where you're at. The summit experience will be brief but the climb up AND down will make it all worthwhile.

Finally, in answer to my father-in-law, I would say this: It is not simply a matter of climbing to see where we've been. It is a journey and testament of the heart and the view is not a static reflection of where we've been, but rather a dynamic view on who we are becoming. Regardless of whether we stand on the illusive summit, it is the journey that reveals to us the character and potential inside of us.

Perhaps the very same statement can be made of the Christmas season.

Enjoy the coming days before, during and after Christmas, my friend.


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