Last Easter, I returned home from a very long week of singing holy week repertoire to a couple surprises. First, my sweetest dog June, whom I had left in her crate only hours ago, greeted me as I walked in the door, lounging on the couch like a queen. “How did you GET there?” I said aloud to her but also myself, starting to feel like I was abjectly losing it. “I know I put her in that crate, ” I muttered as I changed out of my churchin’ clothes and settled next to her on the couch. As I passed by the crate heading to the couch, it’s door was still latched. I absolutely put here in there. Yet all of the walls were intact and the door was still latched. She looked at me like, “What? Easy.” So I did what any good mystery requires, I insisted we take a nap.
It would be weeks later, vacuuming of all things, that I would discover that she had very consistently for what must have been months, literally chewed off the top of the metal crate. This made getting out much, much easier. As I goggled in amazement at the crate totally coming apart as I pulled it out from under the table, the vet’s observation that her teeth showed signs of “minor” chewing also made much more sense. Knowing what I knew then, I was thrilled she hadn’t whittled down her chompers to flat doggie chicklets. I also discovered that, in the process of the Easter morning dog-from-crate resurrection, she also managed to completely destroy the bark collar she’d worn since I got her three years ago at that point. I distinctly felt, for the first time ever, that times were changing. My girl was growing up and demanded to be out.
I could relate. I was starting to feel cagey myself. Four years at a job I hate(d) that had really been sucking the life out of me; an office in a building I’m positively, physically allergic to; a mundane 8 mile drive up Western every day, then again to home. I graduated from grad school four years ago and yet still felt the same angst and malodorous discontent of that spring and summer of 2015, right after, when I was in the first of two terrible jobs.
Times needed a changin. I needed out.
Post Easter morning nap, as I sat, sipping my homemade mimosa, heavy on the mim, scrolling Instagram, a trip to Peru–specifically a hiking trip to summit the Salkantay Pass near Machu Pichu–popped up. I had signed up for the email waitlist six months before without much thought. “That would be cool someday,” I thought in the vaguest sort of non-commital ways, entering my gmail into the form and hitting send without even a closing wisp of thought. And here it was back, right in front of my face, on the day my dog escaped her crate and me drowning in a mimosa. “The time is now,” a little interior voice said without a quiver of doubt. “Go to the mountain.” I imagined the fresh air in my lungs, the alpine vistas, just me and a trail (and roughly 15-20 other people…but you know…not blocking my view)
Go to the mountain. I went to the website casually. “I’ll just check this out…I’m sure it’s already sold out,” was my train of thought. But it wasn’t. And then the entire trip package was in my cart and I was putting my payment information in and…I stopped when I saw submit. That harrowing feeling of no going back rose up on the nape of my neck. “Katie, you click this and it’s going to be a bear to get this money back,” my very firm, rational mind submitted. “Why would I need to get it back?” that little rebel voice shouted. “Yeah, why would I need to get it back…no backsies on this one,” I, in my own voice said out loud, and…submit.
For months I went through stages of grieving as I realized the cost of what I’d just done. I paid for the trip outrightly but it almost totally wiped me out. So, as I scrupulously saved every penny from that point on, it became hard to part with them to get trekking poles and merino wool underwear. But with each purchase, each base layer piece acquired, each air squat completed, my excitement grew and grew…like the Grinch’s heart, bless his soul.
Go to the mountain. I still hear that voice chanting the mantra of the mountain. Despite the threat of altitude sickness, the immediate migraine headache I got when acquiring my flights (all on points, I might add), the number of blister remedies I’m jamming into very limited packing space…I believe that was a true, direct message from something greater than me. There is something on that mountain and I need to go there. I feel like Ray in Field of Dreams–go the distance. It worked out for him.
I am not a hiker. I’ve never hiked anything, let alone a mountain, ever at all…never. Literally. But one of the most obvious metaphorical coincidences to me came when I remembered how I used a mountain metaphor to get me through my dissertation. I remember very clearly thinking about the different heights of the mountain, sections of the trail, that different people walked with me. I remember, much like Frodo in LOTR, realizing that at a certain point I had to go alone to the top. I had my own Sam Gamgee who snuck up there with me (mine was MUCH taller, though). I’ve been up that mountain before. It almost killed me, for real.
Almost a year later and a short seven weeks until I go, it still feels like this mountain is calling me there. I have no idea why, except I do. I have some clearing up and airing out that needs to happen. I need new blood in these veins. That’s all I know. Uncertainty wakes me up in the middle of the night. But I also know that in the deepest recesses of my head and heart, where that little voice lives sure and strong, I’m looking forward to it like I look forward to going home.