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Saturday, April 6, 2013

A Day on the Mountain

A Day on the Mountain.
I bowed my head and kept walking. When the sound in my ears became deafening, I stopped and leaned against a tree so as not to fall back down the steep mountain. When the sound of beating drums softened like they were moving further away from me, I started walking again. I took a second to glance back the way I'd come. It was nearly straight up. The walk was treacherous, but it seemed like such a good idea when I began.
It was another one of those things I felt I must do to cleanse my soul so I could go on to next part of my life. The part after marriage. Is a marriage lasting twenty-five years, before it breaks up, considered a failure. I felt it was. I had mothered two wonderful girls, raised them and got them through college before I left. The drums were getting closer again now. The sound so rhythmic and loud I felt it was going to take over my body and brain. Again I stopped. And again after several minutes of leaning on the nearest tree, it was gone. Whatever was following me was unnerving, yet I wasn't afraid of it. My goal had been to write down all of the good and bad of my marriage and then climb to the top of a glacier pack in the Black Hills and bury it. Cathartic I thought.
For months before the trip I walked mile after mile up and down hills, but nothing prepared me for the high altitude of the mountains. I was making my way slowly up Lover's Loop, a five mile path to the top of the mountain and back. The day before I had walked a different walk and felt like I was in a New York subway because of all of the people I met on the way. Today I picked a more treacherous route hoping not to be in such a crowd. I had been walking for four hours and no one passed me nor did I hear anything but those drums.
So my dilemma was both good and bad. I was going to be alone to sit at the top of the glacier and read my story, and find a place to bury it for eternity. Yet the downside was if there was anything of danger up on the mountain, I was destined to meet it by myself.
I learned early in my walk that the air was thin and I would have to keep my head down to keep from becoming dizzy from the exertion of the climb. Every twenty or thirty feet was a huge pine tree. I was able to go from tree to tree to rest. As I rested I would look up and plot my course to the next tree so I could rest again. I was not yet fifty, but the thinner the air became, the older I felt.
After doing the drum, no drum thing for over an hour I realized it was my own heart beating in my ears. I should have been amused at my own deceit, yet now that I knew, I stopped at every tree to give myself the rest I needed.
So here I am, trudging up the mountain side hour after hour with my head down when I run into a tree. Oh my goodness, it wasn't a tree, it was a massive two thousand pound buffalo. He was grazing in the tree line and I hadn't seen him. I tried not to panic as I scampered back down two trees and hid behind one. Peeking around the tree, I looked at him to see how mad he was I had run into him, but he was still grazing as though he didn't know I was there. Because of his massive size, I was probably a mere gnat to him.
I stayed in my hiding place behind the study pine and watched him as he leisurely ate , making his way further and further toward the other side of the glacier until I felt safe enough to go on with my plans.
All in all, the walk up the mountain took six hours. I read my history once more and took my camping shovel out of my pack. I couldn't make a deep hole in the rocky soil, so I buried my story under a big pile of pine needles and rocks. After making the area look as natural as I could, I went on feeling lighter and happier than I had in years.
The trip down the mountain took less than and hour and I was forced to walk from side to side and tree to tree to keep from sliding down on my backside. When I got there, my friends were waiting to tell about their adventures and I felt I would never be able to admit I thought my own heart beat was made by drums or that I ran smack into the side of a buffalo. But I did tell my story and we all laughed at each others adventures.
It ended up to be quite a vacation, in more ways than one.


  1. What a fantastic story. Very moving. It's really got me thinking about my own divorce and how I coped with the grieving process.

  2. Amazing how writing it all down let me remember it wasn't all bad. Especially when I look at my two wonderful kids ( now adults).

  3. What a powerful piece, Susan. You're very good with essay writing. Maybe you should submit to the Chicken Soup or Cup of Comfort series.

    I too wrote a lot of essays about my divorce. It's therapeutic. Well done. And I hope I never run into a buffalo!

  4. I'm just glad you made it back down!

  5. I've hiked one of those trails. It isn't easy, but I wasn't alone. You were very brave for tackling that journey, and the journey of your new future.

  6. Wonderful story, Susan. I'd love to escape from cubical land and get into the outdoors every now and then myself.

  7. What a great story Susan. You made a brave journey to end one and begin another. Bravo! Warm wishes Susan.

  8. What great symbolism and therapeutic journey to bury one's past and start over. Especially the buffalo. Great job!