“You cannot stay on the summit forever.
You have to come down again…
So why bother in the first place?
Just this: what is above knows what is below;
But what is below does not know what is above. One climbs, one sees. One descends, one sees no longer, But one has seen. There is an art of conducting oneself in the lower regions by the memory of what one saw higher up.” Rene Dumal
It was a beautiful June day as we began the hike up to the top of Estes Cone in the heart of Rocky Mountain National Park. My friends Scott, Kristi, Jim and I continually put one foot in front of the other. I found myself clinging to my friends encouraging words as I struggled with the change in elevation.
Before I knew it, we had reached over 10,000 feet. God’s glorious creation set even more clearly before me. I literally felt like I could reach out and touch the sky.
We continued to journey along the hiking trail. I was struggling to catch my breath and felt like I would never make it to the top of the mountain. I sat down on a rock and hung my head in defeat. There was no way I could go another step.
Scott told Kristi and Jim to continue to the top of the mountain. He then encouraged me to take a moment there in that space. As I looked to my right, there was a makeshift cross, an altar; set out for me on the side of a mountain. Scott walked ahead of me and left me to bask in the glory of this chapel.
I put my earbuds in my ears and listened to the words of Ellie Holcomb’s Red Sea Road. “We, buried dreams, laid them deep into the earth behind us, said our goodbyes, at the grave but everything reminds us, God knows, we ache, when he asks us to go on, How do we go on?” Tears streamed down my face as I lifted my prayers to God. I was living in the midst of liminal space as I had recently resigned from my last job and was wondering where God was calling me next. I quietly placed a small token; the cover to one of the many goodbye cards I had received, of life’s journeys in the rock pile—a letting go of the past and a looking towards the future.
I wiped the tears from my eyes and briskly walked to catch up with my friend. In moments of silence, we finished our journey back to the trail head. At one point, we came to a clearing and my friend pointed out that I was only a few 100 feet from the base of the summit of the mountain. I was frustrated but also aware that God knew what I needed in that moment.
When we started our hike, I longed to reach the top of the mountain because it was a goal I had worked hard to complete. But as I sat in the chapel on the side of the mountain, God reminded me that I didn’t have to accomplish anything to be claimed as his beautiful daughter. So we began our decent down the moment and as we reached the trail head, I looked up and acknowledged the many ways I had been transformed that day by the memories of what I saw and experienced at almost 11,0007 feet; the very top point of Estes Cone.
I am a minister of Word and service; a deacon of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) serving in western ND. I serve at a church as the Director of Home and Family Ministry. Prior to this call, I served at churches in Dilworth MN and Beulah ND.
I am a farmer’s daughter, granddaughter and niece. The prairies of ND are my happy place. It is holy ground!
I also am the daughter of a woman who lives daily with a mental illness. I self-published our story into a book titled “Living as A Daughter: 31 Days of Mental Illness." You can find it here.