Beginning the Climb

Mount Rainier

by John Lane, photographer

What does it mean to climb a mountain? A figure of speech to many, we cannot really know what it’s like until after we have. A distant height beyond our present frame of reference: a reach that exceeds our grasp, to paraphrase Robert Browning. An idea we cannot allow ourselves to possess. An impossibility somehow rendered physical., if only we begin.

A mountain is perhaps about finding the courage to begin. It isn’t about knowing what we are getting into. If we knew what awaited us on any given day, chances are we wouldn’t get out of bed. Discovery requires that first small, uncertain step – a risk of sorts. We risk everything when we begin. To end the past, to say goodbye to familiarity, the comfort of complacency, and our identification with success and failure. Every new moment in which we choose to step forth is our moment. We take possession of our lives. We own our experience. If we will only begin, we will find that we already stand at the summit.

Togetherness is always dry

To walk in the rain with someone you love. There’s nothing like it, especially in Seattle. You know that soon, you’ll be together and warm inside. And dry. You’ll hear the rain in all its music: on windowpanes, the roof, on the pavement. It’s a reminder that the elements can be appreciated for that they are: the fundamental building blocks of human experience.

Rainy Night in Seattle

a rainy night in Seattle, photograph by John Lane

Yet, there is another building block to shower us with beauty and pain: that of human relationship. It is, in fact, a ship of sorts: a vehicle of togetherness. And like much of human experience the journey of love requires safe passage. The ship must be sound, waterproof, stable, dry.

Alas, it is the journey itself that will test the Jesus Bolts of every relationship to its deepest girders. Teeth will rattle loose, challenging the greatest of the natural elements for supremacy in the battle to wreak havoc upon the human soul.

But this is not that night. Tonight, we will turn in before an amber woodstove fire and listen to the heart of the rain beat its distrant drum outside, knowing simply that we are together – and dry.