Thursday, January 21, 2010

Journey Up Life's Volcano

Or Meet Me at the Top

By Nichole Giles

Last week my family and I hiked a dead volcano. We were on vacation far from home, so it was a hike we’ve never done before. Since we live in the Rocky Mountains and hike often during spring and summer months, we started off completely optimistic that this three quarter mile walk would be cake for us. I mean, come on, it’s a mile and a half up to the Timpanogos Caves, and we do that every year without too much difficulty.

We stared off on ground that was comfortably sloped, laughing and talking as we went. A little ways up, the road got steeper, and then steeper. Still, we could see what we thought was the top, and it didn’t look far at all. No worries.

A while later, the trail got steeper still. Finally, my heart rate sped up a little more than normal. My nice morning hike was becoming a bit of a workout. About this time, the trail veered off to a lookout that gave us a wonderful view of the valley and ocean below. The clear, blue water sparkled in the morning sunlight as it washed upon a shore of white sand, and the lush green plants spread out like a fluffy carpet across the valley below. Some people who’d been hiking in front of us decided they’d gone far enough. They snapped a bunch of pictures, and then turned around, satisfied that they’d hiked as close as they could to the top.

We stopped to take some pictures too, and then continued our upward journey. The trail wound around for another few hundred feet and then I turned a corner and found…

The steepest flight of stairs I’ve ever seen—aside from those I once climbed in the Statue of Liberty—that ended at the mouth of a tunnel. But I climbed, thinking that once I reached the top and went through the tunnel, I’d be rewarded with the most beautiful view I’d ever seen. I was so excited to reach the end of the tunnel and emerge outside…

Until I saw the next staircase. Twice as many stairs, and somehow, they seemed even steeper than the previous flight. So, once again, we all made our way up. (On a side note here, the kids were way ahead of the adults by now.) At the top of these stairs, another short tunnel led us into a small room with…

You guessed it. More stairs. This staircase wound around and around and around, and there was really no way of seeing where the steps ended. I found myself wondering how I ever thought this hike would be cake. Maybe those people at the lookout had the right idea. They’d been rewarded with a great view, and the hike to that point hadn’t really been all that hard in my mind. But I wouldn’t turn back now.

As I continued on what was starting to feel like an endless climb, I couldn’t help but think of how this particular hike resembled not only the journey of a writer to publication, but also of every person experiencing life. We walk and we walk and we hike and we work, and every time we think we’ve made it to the top, we discover another staircase. Some people might stop at the first lookout, the halfway point, content to go no further. And for them that’s fine, it’s a great place to be. But others may have loftier goals, and will never be content stopping at halfway. For us, the journey feels endless and harrowing and we end up wondering why we’re trying so hard.

Once I reached the top of the stairs, I found myself in a concrete room in which I (a short person) had to duck to keep from hitting my head, and squeeze through a tiny opening. Finally, I emerged on top of the volcano, and wandered around the viewing area, in awe and amazement of the panoramic scene below. Everywhere I turned, my eyes were rewarded with another type of beauty.

From this vantage point, I was able to look down on a portion of the trail below, and realized it really wasn’t all that far, nor was it as steep as it had seemed on the way up. And in case you’re wondering, yes, the journey was absolutely, one hundred percent, totally, and completely worth it.

Today, my advice to you—in writing or even life in general—is that as you stare up at the steep and endless staircase ahead, remind yourself that all your hard work and dedication, the effort and heart you put into your journey, will eventually pay off with unimaginable rewards.

Meet me at the top and I’ll buy you a mango flavored shaved ice. Or pineapple. Coconut…well, you choose.


Jenny said...

This is my first time visiting your site, and I love it. I'm going to put it on my blog so I can visit you regularly now. Great analogy Nicole. And beautiful pictures. BTW--I'm dying to know where your volcano hike was.

L.T. Elliot said...

A beautiful analogy and an incredible view. So proud of you, Nichole--both for your hike and your writing.

Carolyn V. said...

Wow! Beautiful pictures! My legs ache just from thinking about walking those stairs!

Nichole Giles said...

Hi Jenny, so glad you stopped by. The volcano was Diamond Head on Oahu, Hawaii.

L.T., thanks. I'm so glad to have you as a friend. You too, Carolyn. My legs only ached long enough for me to buy a shaved ice at the bottom. Then all was well again. =) Ironic, isn't it?

Keith Fisher said...

I had to stop several times and catch my breath and I was in shape back then. do the still take you through the dark tunnel? or is it lighted? That tunnel is a great object lesson. something about holding onto the iron rod.

I agree with Laura. You are a great writer and I accept your invitation. just make sure you bring oxygen to offer with the cold drink. :)

Nichole Giles said...

What do you mean oxygen, Keith? There's so much great air there that I doubt even the breathing challenged people with health issues need oxygen in that place.

But...I suppose I could find some if you really think you'll need it. See you at the top!