Rest In Peace

“And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.” 
And he replied: 
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”

(Excerpt from the poem The Gate of The Year by Minnie Louise Haskins”

The summer before last we got lost on our way down from the summit of Mt. Adams. Originally our intention was to hike down that same day, stopping to pick up the tents and gear we’d left behind at Lunch Counter, a flat area where hikers camp before summiting. But as the day wore on, it was obvious that we would need to spend another night on the mountain. As darkness began to fall and with no camp and no other hikers in sight, it became obvious that our only option was to bivouac. In other words, spend the night outside at 9000 feet in below freezing temperature without a tent or cover. Family and friends were expecting a call to say we’d made it down, but we couldn’t find a spot with cell service.

We found a small flat area surrounded by a crude rock wall that others before us had built, and did our best to settle in for the night. We put on every layer of clothing we had in our packs and pulled an emergency blanket over us. Think laying on your driveway under a big piece of tin foil. It was going to be a long night.

My biggest concern wasn’t that we wouldn’t make it out, but for the people who loved us who were expecting our call. When they didn’t hear from us, I knew they would be scared something had happened to us, but there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it.

Except maybe pray. Which I did.

Night time is for sleeping, but that night, there was no sleep to be had. But even when back home and in our oh-so-comfortable bed, there are nights when sleep is illusive. What is it about 2am in the morning? Or, in my case, 2:20am to be exact. That is when, if I am going to wake up and fret, it will be then, and nothing seems to be off the table. Money, health concerns, worries about family and friends, the economy, those currently in the White House, climate change, dementia, hearing loss, sagging skin, and the thousands of family photos that need to be organized. The next morning I am always amazed at how much better things look, but in the middle of the night, things can look mighty bleak.

That night on the mountain however, as I lay there alternately worrying about those who were worrying about us, and praying for the whole situation, my attention turned to the night sky. There was nothing I could do about our situation until the morning, but I had a front row seat for the Perseid Meteor Shower, the Big Dipper, Orion’s Belt, and the Milky Way. I’d never spent an entire night watching the magic show on display that goes on whether we see it or not, and the splendor of it all took my shivering breath away.

There is something about being stranded on a mountain, under the heavens that puts everything into perspective, and laying there I remembered the words of Julian of Norwich, “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.” And somehow, I knew she was right. All was well, and all would be well. Maybe not immediately, but eventually.

Dawn began to appear, and it was time to move our stiff and aching bodies down the mountain. Reaching for my cell phone, I found that where I hadn’t been able to get a signal the night before, a few bars appeared and I was able to make a call to put other’s minds at ease.

All was well.

All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.