One Down, Two to Go

Recorded Journal: I’m out of breath, my heart’s pounding, I’m pouring sweat. I’m only 50 yards into this and I know I’m going to die. I don’t know what it’s going to be, my heart’s going to blow out, or someone’s going to shoot me. I know I’m going to die, what the fuck am I doing this for? I’m 50 yards in at the beginning of my walk, this day, August 12th, the anniversary of my mother’s suicide. And I knew I was going to hit this torment. There’s only one thing I can do in response to it and that can be summed up in two words: keep going.

And so began yesterday’s successful climb of the 3,655-foot Kaaterskill High Peak in the Catskill Mountains. One down, two to go. I’ve decided to climb three Catskill Mountains in specific dates this month. Yesterday marked 17 years since my mother, Virginia, ended her life. The 24th marks 25 years since I was held-up and shot in the head and the 16th marks the 40th anniversary of the biggest hit I’ve ever taken in life, the death of my father at age 55. I was 15.

I knew all hell would break loose in the early going. Fears and anxieties swirling around me and in me like whirling dervishes. You have two choices when they saturate your being like this, wait them out, or disengage from your task and, in yesterday’s case, go home. I would be lying to you if I said there were not moments when my grip on the challenge of summiting was as tenuous as a tightrope walker trying to regain his balance. There were moments when giving in almost won the day. But not yesterday.

Fortunately I had Charley with me. Just over two years old and bursting with life and joy Charley. Sleek black with a hint of chocolate in his coloring, he walked beside me and was great company. Believe me, we did quite a bit of talking. And if you are one of those sadly misguided folks who think dogs don’t dog, think again. They may not use words, but believe me, they can talk up a storm. Charley can.

Speaking of storms. I began the climb from a trailhead on Platte Cove Road at 10:30 a.m. on the nose. By 11:30 the experience was beginning to improve.

Recorded journal: The fear has begun to ebb and the sweat is now pouring from the climb and I always feel better when the sweat’s pouring. Somehow it lets me know I’m wedded to the world I’m living in.

By 12 noon all of me is emotionally, spiritually and physically underway. At 12:10 there is thunder, then light rain, then not so light rain, then buckets of rain, and I didn’t give a rat’s ass because at this point it was me, Charley and the mountain all rolled into one and I am loving every minute of my experience and all the world is alive and rich with magic and beauty. The forest in the pouring rain contains ineffable forms of wonder in sights, sounds and scents and if you let yourself go, you indelibly and gloriously connected to the world you are in.

It was nearly 3:30 when I summited. It was still raining, but the sun was shining in my life.

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