Accepting your part
Written by TJ Simmons
“O me, O life!” with Walt Whitman’s answer recurring:
Life is a powerful play, and I get to contribute a verse.
Long have I anguished over what my verse shall be.
Shall it be a lonely soliloquy, only heard by an Audience
Hidden within the light?
Will it be a short comedic scene
Where I bumble and trip over my own feet?
A powerful choreographed fight scene
Where I triumph over evil?
For I have no script, no words of my own worth repeating
Or wisdom worth remembering
Oh friend, our legacy matters not
For I am not the Actor the Audience came to see
I am but an extra, and this role is now enough for me
Dege Peak at Sunrise: Rainier National Park, WA
Written by Madison Wilcox
We hiked up the ridge line towards Dege Peak through patches of snow. Sometimes the path would trace the edge; other times it would turn into the snowbank, and we’d have to stomp a trail through, the crust of ice holding and then giving out at every step, each person packing the snow further and further down, a millimeter at a time. The stars we had seen two hours earlier from the tarp in the Sunrise parking lot had faded. Then, they had winked low above us. Now, at 3:30 a.m., the sky was lighter every time I looked up.
We talked in low tones as we walked, getting acquainted.
“What’s it like living in Central California? Did you always live there?”
“How often do people confuse you and your twin?”
“Do you write because you’re good at it or because you couldn’t imagine yourself doing anything else?”
I wasn’t ready to return to the flatlands or respond to the questions.
When it was quiet again, I breathed in rhythm with our steps and watched the branches of the Whitebark pine sway above the path. We were a slow train of four, moving under the trees, walking bravely under the face of the mountain. Every few minutes I would remember and turn my head. Every time, there it was, across the valley. Massive and silent, holding its breath; far away, the climbers tracking slowly across its face, making an early attempt at the summit, their headlamps a few points of light blinking against the snow.
It was their mountain, too.
We reached the crest of Sourdough Ridge where the trail turned up towards the summit of Dege at 4:30 a.m. The edge dropped into a rounded basin, scree covering the slopes that tilted down towards the grasses below. We stood on the rim of a crater, looking out towards the rim of the world. The rest of the cascades were backlit orange — it was coming soon.
I sprinted up the last few switchbacks. It was thoroughly morning now. The conversation of the three behind me rumbled louder as the mountain awakened, exhaling after a long night of silence, the steam rising from the trees. Now I could laugh. Now I could talk, loudly even, about Central California, and my twin, and why I write just because I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
Last turn, and I was there. Who knew you could balance on the head of a pin and feel like laughing and screaming and crying and lying flat on your face all at the same time? The summit was only about 20 feet in diameter. I didn’t know which way to turn. I didn’t know where to look.
“Scatter my ashes up here when I die,” I joked to the three with me.
Then the sun came. It was as slow as it was sudden. I wanted to be alone. Within minutes, the whole mountain was a burning bush. I felt the urge to throw off my running shoes and tell Him I’d do whatever He said.
I hiked down knowing I’d return. Higher next time.