I can see clearly now the clouds are gone...Giant Mountain

Submitted by Nancy

Mountain: Giant (4627)
Date: November 21, 2009
Time: 7.5 hours
Weather: unseasonably warm, very cloudy
Miles: 6.2
Elevation Gain: 2,859
Trails: Zander Scott Trail to Ridge Trail and back

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I can see clearly now, the rain is gone,
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It's gonna be a bright, bright sun-shiny day.

          -Johnny Nash

"Love is not consolation. It is light." - Friedrich Nietzsche

Pat and I and our trail dogs, Dejah and Pinta, are sloshing up the trail in mud, wet leaves and rivulets of water, enveloped in a cloud, enclosed in gray. Everywhere I look it is a dull sunless gloom. Even the woods have turned into a dreary collection of soggy brown poles against a somber slate backdrop. It is depressing. The mountain starts with a steep up instantly and stays at a pretty hefty angle the whole way up. It is hard hiking. As I put one muddy hiking boot in front of the other, I think...this is also the state of Pat's and my friendship...muddy, gray and hard.

During the past week, Pat and I had a series of communications that didn't communicate, leaving us both angry and frustrated. Last night we sat in my car and tried to come to a place that felt better. We made it part way. Just meeting and talking was a step towards each other. Our drive this morning to New York is not uncomfortable, but quiet. There is a tinge of unresolved something in the air. I am awake enough to be aware of it, but not to confront it.

After over four hours on the road, we finally arrive at the trailhead and start up the Zander Scott Trail at 9:51 AM.

Part way up the mountain, Pat says, "Do you want to talk deep?"
"Sure" I say.
She asks me how I felt leaving our conversation in the car the previous night.
I think about it for a while and finally find the courage to be honest in my answer. "I felt like I didn't allow myself to be vulnerable," I say. But the words come out sounding like they have a crust on them that I hear the second I say them.
She says, "I was vulnerable, but I took on too much of the responsibility."

As we talk, I can see our patterns playing out with each other. I protect myself by not sharing from my fully open heart. It is like I have a protective shell around me that keeps everyone out; they just bounce off. Trouble is, nothing gets out either...my heart stays safe inside and no one can see it. I can feel my shell, as if made of hard plastic, rubbing against me, chaffing like it doesn't fit anymore, but I don't have the courage to just take it off. I am wiggling around inside the confining plastic, trying to find a way out as I talk.

I want Pat to find a way in. But she doesn't. As much as I wish she would hold me accountable and push me to share, I know it is my job, not hers. And when I don't share from an open heart, I feel very alone.

As we climb, Pat shares her feelings about our conversation the previous night, letting my admission of not being vulnerable float off into the bleak horizon. She lets me off the hook. She talks about her patterns and triggers, how she sees them now, and is beginning to change. It takes incredible courage to do that -- to see yourself more clearly and recognize it as an opportunity to change, not beat yourself up.

We are both slogging through our own stuff, feeling the heavy weight of our history and our patterns. This is what is supposed to happen. People heal through their relationships - friends, spouses, co-workers, business partners. Healing is not a solo journey, but one of self-discovery through relationship. Pat and I have known each other for four years and have become the closest of friends. Now we are pissing each other off, bringing out the stuff in each other that needs to be seen so that change can occur, if we choose. It is a painful process and here in the shadow of not knowing on Giant Mountain, I am shaking my head as I walk. I have no words for how bad it feels.

I know I am protected. It feels like it is my life I am protecting. But I know that's not the case. It was once, when I was a little girl and I was face-to-face with my mother's spewing venomous anger, but it is not my reality now. I still act like I need to protect myself, when in fact I don't. I can let people care. I know this. But knowing it and doing it are two very different things. In this moment, hiking up the mountain, it feels like the hardest thing in the world to do -- to take off my protective clothing and stand naked in my heart and be seen. I don't let my wounds show...and yet I know that it is the wounds of others that attracts me to them, not their achievements or job or status. Wounds are real. Tears are real. Mistakes are real.

So, I am talking to myself, as I slog my way up the trail, saying Nancy, just share something from your heart. But I don't do it.

We reach an open ledge. At least I think it is an open ledge. I turn around and look out from the trail, taking a moment to catch my breath. The rock just seems to end with nothing beyond but thick smoky soup. I can't see anything past the ledge I am standing on. I turn around and drag myself up the mountain, aware of how much I am affected by feeling closed in by the clouds and denied the beauty I know is right there. I wonder if that is how Pat feels when I don't share from my heart, if she feels like she is being shut off from the beauty of my heart.

Close to the summit we reach an area of huge granite slabs that are very steep and have little for foot and hand holds. I climb up without thinking. I turn around and Pat is frozen in place, her legs shaking, as she tries to find a way up the rock. I start down to help her, talking to her as I inch down.

"You got it Pat. There you go. You've got it." I hear myself and recognize the softness in my voice. I am finally in my heart.

We arrive on the summit of Giant Mountain at 12:51 PM. We know it is the summit because the trail ends. There is a shroud of nothing all around us. No views. There are shadow-like figures on the summit, but it is hard to see our fellow hikers in more detail. We eat a quick sandwich, talk with a few friendly people on the top and then head down to the East Trail to Rocky Peak Ridge or RPR as they call it here in New York.

The trail is very steep and incredibly muddy and after about 10 minutes I suggest we re-access. "It's 1:30 now. We won't get to RPR until 2:45 and we won't get back to Giant until 4. So we will be coming down in the dark. How bad do we want this?" We decide we don't want it that bad and we turn around and head back to Giant and then start down the mountain. About an hour into our descent I look up and I can see the sun starting to burn off the clouds. I instantly feel better. I have hope.

Behind me I can hear Pat saying something about me seeing her clearly. I know she is talking about seeing her through my intuition, but I am focused on what I am seeing right in front of me. I am starting to see sky. All of a sudden we are in the midst of beauty. "Hey!" I say excitedly, "Those must be the Adirondacks!" pointing out in front of us. We can now see mountains that go on for as far as we can see. Pat and I take off our packs and sit down on the rock slabs and watch as the clouds clear. Yes, we are in the midst of beauty, not only around us, but between us and in us. It seems that as the clouds drift away, our friendship comes back together. In minutes the clouds are gone and the sun is shining, already low in the sky. I look at Pat who smiles back at me. I can see our friendship now. It is in her smile, in my heart, in our history, in our commitment to keep talking.

Watching the sunset always makes me think with deliberation about the day disappearing. I wonder, if this were my last day, did I live it fully? Am I grateful for the hours gone? Did I fill them with love and learning? I don't have the answers in the form of words, but I feel my heart is full with the meaning this day holds for me. The sun splashes beautiful warm light all around us for a few glorious moments right before it slides behind the mountain.

We get back to the car at 5:20 PM. The dogs hop in the car and are instantly asleep. We drive home through Albany, stopping at a diner in Troy, NY, for yummy-just-what-we-were-hoping-for meatloaf, mashed potatoes and green beans. It takes us four and a half hours to get home and we talk about the miracle that is our friendship. We talk about how lucky we are to have found one another, about how incredible it is that we have climbed all the 4,000-footers in New England together and today climbed our first mountain in the Adirondacks. We tell this story to each other often and I love it every time. It never loses its magic. It absolutely amazes me. The whole way home we shine the light on our extraordinary friendship.

I can see clearly now, the clouds are gone.

1 out of 46 Adirondack 4,000 Footers