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DSC_0497Climbing Mountains

My daughter loves to hear our childhood stories. She also likes for us to tell stories from the time after we were married, but before she was born. That’s a barrel full of material.

So the other day on the way to school, I told her about climbing up to Spence Field. “We wanted to climb high up the mountain so we could see a long way.” I tell her. I don’t tell her that it was also because we were young and wanted to prove ourselves. “So we gathered up our lunch and some water and put it all in a pack. We tied on our hiking boots. Then we drove up to the Cades Cove picnic area.” (She already has a lot of family memories of Cades Cove.)

“We started out walking on a flat trail. Almost a road really, called Anthony Creek Trail.”  (Okay, I looked up the trail name tonight. It was over 20 years ago.) “As we went along,  we passed the horse barns. Then the trail got narrower and narrower, and soon it was just a path that led up and up. We climbed higher and higher up the mountain.” By this time she is completely engrossed in my story. I don’t even have to impress her with the fact that it is almost 5000 feet above sea level.

Spence Field is about 200 acres of grass and some trees on top of the mountain ridge. The field is a  convergence of sorts. The Appalachian Trail runs along it in a roughly north-to-south direction. Other trails lead up from other valleys.

I keep on with my tale. She is expecting bears by this time. Cades Cove stories nearly always include bears. “As we climbed something  surprising happened.”

“What happened, Mama?”

“Well, the clouds rolled in around us.”

“The clouds?” She asks in disbelief.

“Yes, the clouds. We had climbed so high that we had reached right up into the clouds.” She looks doubtful.

“Soon” I said, “we could only see a small circle around us. We could hardly see the trees ahead of us. And when we got to the top, we could not see any of  the spectacular valleys below. All that work and climbing, and we couldn’t see a thing!”

I try to explain what it is like to be walking up in the clouds. (It is hard to imagine when you are only four.) I tell her it is something like fog. I tell her how we ate our lunches anyway and rested from the climb. How we packed up all our trash and started back down the mountain.

“Did you see an airplane?”

“An airplane? Well no.” I say.

Then I notice the contrails in the sky. “We weren’t quite that high,” I tell her with a smile.

“Oh,” she says.

I think of one of my favorite Switchfoot songs.

I’m a wandering soul
I’m still walking the line that leads me home

All I know
I still got mountains to climb
On my own
On my own

Some of the most mountain-climbing sort of work in this life we can only do on our own. And sometimes we climb the mountain only to find ourselves surrounded by mist and clouds.

Do you love me enough to let me go?
To let me follow through
To let me fall for you
Do you love me enough to let me go?

And ironically, it is by letting go that love comes to us. A steep climb indeed. And a beautiful fall.