I am focused on her feet in front of me. Sand and black remnants of lava crumble from each of her footprints as she takes another step upwards. Then I follow suit.
My lungs are desperately sorting through the air I breathe for molecules of oxygen, which are evasive at 10,000 feet. The summit is a jagged black promise across a field of snow.
Two days ago, I wasn’t sure if I would make it here. Three jobs were demanding a lot of me. Deadlines were looming. I was exhausted from a series of out-of-town excursions. I had worn out the same words praying for my dad’s health as he recovered from chemo. A stubborn injury and some health-related bills had left me disillusioned. It’s too much, I thought.
But for some reason, I summoned the little bit of energy I had and got in my car and drove for hours. Past hay fields and mountain passes and tiny towns with rusty water tanks.
At the top we let our legs hang off a ledge while we eat bagel sandwiches and carrots and trail mix. We laugh, and I forget all about home. The air has a bite, but the sun on my jacket is warm. Peaks ripple below the tips of our shoes. And suddenly everything, even the things that had loomed above me days before, seems very small.
This scene is over-saturated with color in surreal proportions: the red of the rock, the blue of the sky, the teal green of a glacial lake. I’m drinking in the colors with insatiable thirst, as if they will somehow refill my empty reserves.
There is something intoxicating about the color and the air and the sun at 10,000 feet. And there is something refreshing about the 10,000 steps it takes to get there.