Wednesday, December 20, 2006
Into the Great White Open
Anyone who has spent any time in the great outdoors, be it hiking, mountain climbing, running...knows what a rush it can be. To be close to the sky, the mountains, the wind and sun. To feel one with the earth and elements, to feel a greater spirituality then in our everyday lives down below, on concrete and dry land. To feel a connection to something greater then oneself... and in that sense, a heightened sense of oneself-- of being alive. Of being closer to God, maybe. Of feeling more complete, more human -- definitely. That is why we take on these challenges, to take ourselves away from the everyday. To breathe deeply, to feel the sun on our backs and on our faces, to listen to the small pulses of nature - the wind playing on a snowbank, the call of a wild animal, maybe the song in our heads that repeats itself like a mantra, as we push ourselves further and further up the side of a mountain. No doubt this is some of what the climbers who lost their lives at Mt. Hood were searching for. And yet, this is the kind of story that has a resonant poignancy for all of us. We find ourselves anxiously watching the news, hoping the rescuers find signs of life in the blank white canyons that fill our television screens. We watch the faces of the families, the arc of the day as bright sunlight fades into blackness, each nightfall signalling another day lost, a lessened sense of hope. When Kelly was found dead, the ominous discovery ironically made us feel hopeful - that at least the rescuers had been in the right area, that perhaps there was a chance that the other two climbers would be found. But tonight, the news that the search had been called off, and that the other two climbers Hall and Cooke had probably fallen or been buried , brought its own dismal conclusions. Part of us feels like we know them, like we have lost our own friends - because we understand the need to look outside ourselves, to find higher ground, for peace, for answers, for a kind of salvation. We know that Kelly was injured, and that the other two climbers probably left him to try and get help. But who knows what else might have transpired. Did they argue, cry and scream? Maybe they laughed or told jokes. Maybe they were delirious. Maybe they saw dancing angels in the snow. Maybe they couldn't see anything at all. These last few days as I walked the city streets, I found myself wondering what the climbers last few conversations were, what they said to each other and themselves, what they thought about in their dying moments. Of course, I will never know, and maybe no one, not even their loved ones, can know. In this season of hope and joy, I wish them peace, and hope that even for a small moment, 40,000 feet above sea level, they found what they were looking for.