Thursday, October 27, 2011

Summits and other distant peaks

When I was married I spent a great deal of time in the mountains. My husband was an avid mountaineer and if I wanted to spend time with him, in the mountains was the only place to do it.

We climbed. Skied. Hiked. I lugged 45lb packs of on my back, trekked for seven days straight in the wilds of the Interior of British Columbia. Slept in a tent on a glacier at 30 below (Fahrenheit or Celsius that's tremendously cold!). Hung from a rope 3,000 ft above the earth and stood atop peaks 12,000 feet in the air.

And I loved it.

It was exhilarating. Exciting. It proved I was ALIVE. It proved my strength. My endurance. My ability to DO.

And I resented it.

And when we separated, the mountains became a persona I did not like. They had stolen my husband from me. They had come between us. They were a force I could not reckon with.

And still I love the mountains.

Their grandeur. Silence. Beauty. Their ability to stand against time and never fall.

And still, I do not spend a lot of time in the mountains.

Haven't skied in years. Haven't schlepped a pack for ages. Haven't hung on a rope and wondered, what am I doing? since our marriage broke down and we took our separate paths.

Because that was the thing about climbing. No matter how exhilarating. How challenging and exciting, there always came a moment where I wondered, "What on earth am I doing scaling up some mountainside, hanging on a rope thousands of feet above the earth, clinging to a slab of rock relying on nothing but my climbing partner, a 1/4" wide length of rope and a little piece of metal to keep me safe? What on earth am I doing?"

And then, focus returned and the summit was attained and I would stand in awe and wonder of the absolute beauty of the world seen from such heights.

It must be how God feels, I mused. To see the beauty from above and know, deep, deep in your soul,there is magic and mystery and wonder alive everywhere.

To know the sun shining down on rivers and valleys and deep dark forests.

To know the wind. The wind. The wind echoing from peak to peak. Caressing mountainsides and valley bottoms in whispers of time filled breath shimming with the stories of the places its been, the sights its seen, the people its met upon its journey across the globe.

I would stand upon a mountaintop and scream. Out Loud. I would dance and laugh and throw wide my arms and spin around and feel LIFE breathing in and out and all around me.

I loved the mountain high. The feeling of being above it all and part of it all all at the same moment.

and then, there was the way down. The path of return.

Joseph Campbell, in The Hero of a Thousand Faces speaks of the heroes journey, the call, the refusing the call, the picking up of the gauntlet, the journey.

And always, the journey ends on the mountain top, goal reached. Destination achieved. Success granted after demons and devils are destroyed, trials and tribulations overcome and obstacles overtaken.

We celebrate the journey up, the summitting, the achieving and leave the journey back as an afterthought to what has happened to bring us here. Into this moment. Into the light of who we are.

And yet, it is in the journey back, the journey down that I find myself searching for meaning. For the essence of my humanity. The fulfillment of my destiny.

In life, we scale mighty peaks, explore deep depths, achieve great heights. We applaud our accomplishments and sometimes, return home expecting a heroes welcome, a ticker tape parade celebrating our achievements.

And often, all that is waiting upon our return is the life we left behind. Our brilliance, our achievements, our wisdom gained on the journey, unnoticed by those waiting behind as we struggle to understand where the 'more' is in all that has transpired.

In November, I am presenting at TEDxCalgary. My theme is the power of our story (and this post is my opening statement)

-- it isn't our achievements that make the difference, it's what we do with our story and how we share our learnings, our travels in time and space and through life that we find that 'meaning', that 'more' we search for that touches other's hearts and minds and awakens them to the possibility of joining us on this exciting voyage of life on earth, in all its beauty, sorrow, complexity and excitement.

I am working on this project as I prepare to leap off the peak of where I'm at into a space I've never been before.

And this is just the beginning.

I'd really appreciate your feedback as I share the essence of my TEDxCalgary talk --  hope you'll travel with me and share your thoughts and insights and ideas of what I share and what you experience.

The horizon is out there. Shimmering in all its beauty.

I stand upon the mountaintop of my excitement and take a deep breath.

it's time to leap.

I hope you leap with me.


Maureen said...

Congatulations, Louise!

The best advice I could give is, keep it honest, and let it be you who speaks.

Wish I could be there when you present.

Louise Gallagher said...

Thanks Maureen -- You will be! there. I carry you in my heart. Your voice always rings true.

Fi said...

Love your theme and love your opening statement.
I just went and googled TEDxCalgary just to see what it all says. It sounds like an inspiring event to be a part of.

I believe the greatest key to effective communication - honest, simple and from the heart. I'm sure you'll wow them no matter what you say.

I look forward to coming along for the journey and hearing more