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Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Precarious Climb and the Dance of Day and Night

Here's Part 1 of a short story based on my recent experience hiking in the Adirondacks in upstate New York for our 39th Anniversary!

I arranged my hat carefully to cover my ears, pulled on my gloves, and wrapped the scarf around my neck as I prepared to brave the ice cold elements. My husband and I jumped out of the car, eager for  the winter hike our host at the cabin recommended. At the time, I didn't realize how much of a slice of winter we would encounter.
As we approached the trail bathed in ice, we realized it followed a frozen riverbed. We both assumed it would quickly change to a path and embarked on the shimmering trail. At first all was well as I had insulated myself against the cold, but I hadn't considered the quality of my boots. "Boom"  my feet slid out beneath me, First time down, I wasn't too upset and I quickly recovered. 
I thought this would be an easy mile and a half hike after the bout of unseasonably mild temps. The weather had been well above freezing for weeks and  I thought that our March anniversary would be best celebrated by doing what both of us enjoyed a lot--hiking. I awaited the getaway with anticipation. The cabin proved to be a good find, but I was struggling to stay up right.

As I evaluated the trail that arose ahead, I slipped again. Down I went with a thud. "Oh no!" I yelled and scrambled in the snow, annoyed. My husband assured me. "The trail will get better." I wasn't so sure, but I had been the one that wanted to embark on this journey, so I picked myself up and brushed off my jacket.
My husband climbed onward confidently, as I stared at my boots and contemplated every step. The path widened a little and we were able to walk along the side of the frozen creek, but it was still slippery. My feet slid apart and gave out from under me a few times, but I managed to break the fall and pressed onward. I concentrated even harder, but whoosh, down I went again on an icy patch. "Yeoowwww!" that hurt, and I yelled a few choice words along with it. This "fun" outing was turning pretty miserable, fast.
A few more slips and slides and my attitude plummeted to the bottom of the frozen tundra. Why was my husband  trying to drag me up this mountain anyway? Can't he see I'm not able to do this. He's doing fine, but I'm a mess! I yelled to him. " I don't think I can make it! ".  He was more comfortable in the forest, which I loved, but I grew up in a neighborhood; he surrounded by woods, me by houses. 
"It flattens up ahead."He encouraged. 
"But we've hardly made any progress", I complained. !" I figured we'd only hiked a 1/4 of the way.
"No, we're probably half way there by now." He waited up ahead for me. 
"Let me  see those boots." He examined them. "Why these are only sneakers!"
"No, they're not! " I protested, "they're a brand name boot." By now I was downright angry. "These are what I use."
"Yeah, for summer and fall hikes down by us; not winter hikes in the 
"Well then I'll have to buy another pair of shoes!" I gloated.
He smirked. "Just what you need, more shoes!"
I didn't own as many as other women, but he was a conservative man, three pairs of shoes to his name. I decided there then and  that I would make it to the lake. Just as a number of less than positive thoughts bombarded my mind and heart, mother nature decided to press her call button, marked Urgent!" Perfect timing I wined.
" I have to stop." I yelled. "I have to, ya know..."
"Sure, go anywhere." He swept his hand in an arc, indicating the woods.
"But what if someone comes along."
"Slim chance of that."
As I was contemplating what to do, I heard voices. In a few seconds, two guys tramped up the snow covered path. That was a narrow escape!
As the young men passed by I implored them, "Do you know how much further to Lake Warren?"
One of them shook their head. "Never heard of it!."
Never heard of it, I shouted to myself. I felt desperate to get to our destination, then I remembered I misspoke the name. "Maybe its Bennett lake."
"Oh yeah, it's up ahead. " he said as his voice trailed away from the crazy lady.
As they retreated, I scurried to the side. At least we're not too far, but I can't make it another step. The cold air slapped my bottom, but it was a welcome relief.
When I returned to the path, I saw the two young men waited at the top of the hill. My husband approached and they signaled him to the right.
As I crested the slippery slope, I looked down at a pile of rocks.
"The lake is this way." My husband pointed in the direction of the stones.
"No sign or marker or even an arrow, just a pile of rocks," I grumbled as I stared at the steep descent. This should be lots of fun, but at least we're close, I mumbled.
My husband couldn't hear me as he bounded down the trail like a deer. He was more at home in the forest as he grew up on twenty acres, while I grew up in a neighborhood twenty miles from NYC. We were so different as our marriage of over thirty years has proved, but I didn't have any more time for analyzing. Another challenge awaited me, but at least this path was strewn with leaves trapped in the snow. They made for a better grip and I slowly descended. The end was in sight.
As we reached the bottom, where our destination spread out before us, we both knew it had been worth the work. A  pristine frozen lake surrounded by pines lay sparkling in the sun. We stopped and listened to the sound as the ice cracked and water underneath moaned like an Irish ballad--both beautiful and haunting, like our marriage. Filled with the push and pull of two vastly different childhoods, upbringing and personalities, we had survived over thirty five years of marriage with God's intervention. For now, we basked in the peace the lake exuded. I didn't know, but I needed a rest for what unwittingly lay ahead.
Have you ever felt this way? You can leave a comment.  I'd love to hear what you think.