Can you do one more?
“Why are we doing this?!”
Jeff and I were sitting on some rocks just off the trail, quietly munching on snacks, when we heard it.
We could just see her through the trees, but she hadn’t yet seen us.
She was standing with her hands dangling, breathing hard, head back, shouting at the sky, at that point of frustration we’ve all felt when you think the sky owes you an answer, damnit!
The question was directed at the two others just ahead of her, but for a moment, it seemed so much bigger than that.
She turned with the curve of the trail and noticed us, put her hand to her mouth, and started to laugh.
“Sorry you had to hear that” she said sheepishly, “it just looks so far still.”
We laughed along with her, applauded her honesty, and tried to cheer her on for the steps to come.
We were just above the famous Saddleback pass, in a stand of larch forest on the south flank of Mount Fairview, one of the dazzling peaks that gathers around Lake Louise’s blue-green edges.
After a steady climb to the pass, the trail to Fairview’s nine thousand foot summit begins, zig-zagging through steep and crumbling terrain.
It’s got to be the best view you can get in that area without any technical climbing.
No ropes. Just one foot in front of the other.
A short while later, we passed her during their water break, and she was still skeptical that she’d see the top.
Other people visible on the skyline above were still ant-sized at that point. As though the sky was answering her question: because you have to.
We joked about renting her our dog, Russell, for the rest of it, since he was still pulling on the leash. A little extra forward momentum never hurts.
At the top, we huddled in our down jackets eating our sandwiches, lucky enough to get the place to ourselves.
After maybe fifteen minutes of enjoying the view, we heard a squeal from behind us.
Their party had shrunk to two, but there she was: hands in the air, practically skipping the final steps, breathless but still shouting her delight for the mountains to witness.
Jeff said “This why we do it” gesturing to the million dollar view. She kept grinning.
She even took a triumphant selfie with Russell before we started our descent.
The summit is where we celebrate. Where we high five, take the selfie, take it all in.
And usually, that’s what I have to share with you. The perspective from the top, after struggles have been had and obstacles bested.
Because it’s the cannon ball moment that lives in our imagination.
But having seen that woman at her low moment, and then seeing her again, arms wide and smiling at the top, it reminded me of how I hope I’ll remember 2020.
That when you can’t see the summit, you’re left alone with a question only you can answer:
Who do you have to be to get there?
You don’t have to like it. It probably won’t make for much of a selfie.
But if you really want to see the top, you answer that question for yourself, one step at a time.
Standing on the summit is the expression of strength, but it’s not where strength is built.
Whatever path you’re walking right now, if you’re tired and frustrated or you can’t quite see the top, there’s just one question: can you do one more?
Our actions today build our legacies for tomorrow. What kind of cairns do you want to build?
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