I felt the constriction when dawn broke that day in the Springs. The tightening of forehead and eye bone that pulls one's vision inward and away from the light, it found me. And like a vise, it held me in its grip. For days.
It mattered not that the sun pulsed warm or that the rocks glowed red. It ignored the lilting timbre of boys and quiet rush of beast caught unawares.
It cared not that it was an uninvited guest or that it walked roughshod over my days.
Like a proverbial thorn in my side, it haunted my every waking hour.
The only escape seemed to be down the mountain.
But I was not going that way.
The irony was not lost on me: that in the ascending, I was suffering from a hypoxia, of sorts. I was closer to fine if I stopped moving. But you see, I had come to climb mountains and I didn't have time for these shenanigans.
It hurt the most that day when I wasn't listening. All of us wear layers of love and, sometimes, their very fabric chafes. I was wearing too many clothes that day, old ones that no longer fit, and they were piled beneath that sweater that I bought that made me think of you. I suppose I thought that all those layers would round out my rough edges but really, they only hid my bones. You longed to be close to my frame but I was too bundled to be found. One can suffocate from the weight of ill fitting garments.
The way out of the hurt was to walk in the thin air. To be alive in it, despite its desire to snuff out my flickering. Together, we peeled off the layers that were no longer my style and I breathed deep, in spite of myself. We looked up at those peaks, temporarily obscured by clouds of unknowing, and locked hands. Sometimes we need to be guided up mountains, to step in the footprints of those who know where they want to go. So were you to me.
And then, the miracle happened. Despite your leading, I still found my head spinning light and untethered, like a top flung to the edge of the table. But the light of the golden aspens fell across our path, exposing stones and limbs and other snares. And we just kept climbing. We were headed to that lake, nestled among the crags, named for maidens unseen, and it pulled at us. It was there, on the side of that pool, that the grip on my head and heart flew away.
It was water that would save me from the chains that had been clanking around my head. As we sat in silence around the lake, I watched the water ripple and calm, bubble and rest and I knew that this moment would be my undoing. The clouds, heavy and gray, let go of their essence and dripped life all over me. And, seated upon an ancient rock, placed their ages ago by water in a different form, I knew I had found my own Bethesda. And so I picked up my mat and walked.