Wednesday, December 3, 2014

I Should Have Been Afraid

Two hundred yards from the summit of Grizzly Peak, I drank in the view. A wonderland of lush emerald green nestled in the valley below, dotted with flashing lakes and fortified with turrets of granite. If I squinted, I could imagine the ruins of an ancient, magical kingdom. A place that I alone had discovered.
Mountainsides swept up into rocky grey peaks patchworked with snow fields. All was silent, save the whistle of a marmot.
Tears came to my eyes. It had been too long. I had let the city and my job take away what was most precious to me. Now it was August, and it was the first time I'd been above timberline in a year. How could I have let that happen?
The usual afternoon storm marched down the valley, a roiling wall of purple cloud. The wind picked up. Directly overhead it was still clear, but I heard a distant rumble of thunder and smelled moisture in the air.
I figured the worst part about lightning was the thunder. When it sneaks up on you and goes: BOOM! and sets your eardrums ringing and knees trembling. "Ha!" It says, "Made you flinch!"
I was a tiny animal in a sea of rocky peaks. There was no reason for the lightning to single me out.
Taking out my phone I filmed the horizon: "Magnificent storm coming in from the west there." I panned to the summit. "I'll be back down to the saddle before it catches up to me." I turned the phone's camera toward my face. In the video I'm wearing something between a grin and a grimace. My lungs had that high-altitude burn, and my heart hammered in my chest, both  with the exertion and the game of racing the storm.
You can hear the click of my walking stick on scree, and then-- zzzt! the video ends.
 It turns out I should have been afraid of lightning.