The image of the mountaintop guru completely entranced in his own thoughts. You come from below working, struggling to reach the place where he peacefully sits lost within the confines of his own brain. His thoughts, you will never know them. Yet you hope as you clamor up the side of the mountain that you will learn something from his wisdom, something from his time spent in solitude at the top of his mountain. You get closer, you heart jumps with anxiety, will he be able to provide that clarity you so deeply desire? Your brain seems to be weak, but you have come with one purpose and you will make it to your guru and know what he has to say.
And then, there he is. He sits stoic on the edge of a rock staring contently into the air in front of his face. He does not notice you or at least makes no indication that he knows you are there. He sits staring into the nothingness. You become awkwardly silent waiting for him to notice you. But nothing, he just stares into the abyss before him. Your thoughts begin to unravel inside your own head as you become bored waiting for him. Suddenly, you remember where you are and why you came, this thought jolts you out of your mental wandering. You walk over and sit down next to him. He says nothing.
After the moments that now drag on forever, you expel your question into the nothingness before you hoping that he will hear you and reveal what it is he knows. Your words hang in front of you enveloped in the silence. They are almost visible in the thin air and awkward tension you feel between yourself, your guru and the mountain. You feel like you just screamed inside a temple and you wish you could just raise your hand and grab them back. After a few more moments you begin to relax. It’s not like you’re the first person to come and sit down next to this statue of a man and throw your words out into the universe with hopes that they will be answered. He says nothing.
I shouldn’t be here, I say to myself, but fuck it. There are people everywhere. We have cell service and I could be off this mountain within an hour twer anything to happen. To be honest, I’ve been a bit lightheaded and dizzy since we stopped in the parking lot. I have no idea why. Is it the lingering effects of fluid accumulation in my lungs? Or is it just a minor inner ear infection that makes me dizzy as the pressure changes? I don’t know. I just know that I am now higher than I was when I got sick. I’ve been watching the feet tick up as we climbed the switchbacks out of Whitney Portal. It’s obvious that we aren’t making it all the way to the top, but we pretend anyways.
Up we go, we hit 10,000 feet and then see a sign that takes us down to Lone Pine Lake. It’s small but the view is beautiful. You look to the end of the lake and it looks like the earth ends and drops into nothing because it does. The hike up has been steep. The switchbacks go up the side of a mountain that starts at 4000 feet and goes to over 14,000. We’ve walked for 2,000 and all we can see is that the mountain keeps going up forever.
We keep moving, slowly. Kathleen always behind me.
The tunnel I have been walking through gets narrower, my breath heavier. I stop to rest. There’s a log. I sit on it. My brain is slow. I stare directly at the tree in front of me. I don’t blink. My vision slowly slides to the left and I don’t know if it is but my head feels like it’s tilted and moving. That tree is so amazing. I can’t think. I have no idea how long I sat there staring into the nothingness dropping off in front of me. It feels like time has completely stopped. I’m not breathing hard, but it just feels right to stare. The only thought in my brain outside of that tree is that my brain is free of thoughts. I’ve never been able to silence my thoughts so easily. I revel in the emptiness. Thoughts that do appear seem to echo from on side of my head to the other expecting to bump into something else, but there’s nothing else there. I want to just stay here forever.
We hit 10,500 feet and our pace has slowed to a crawl. We are at mirror lake. I can only walk a few paces before I want to stop again. We walk down to the lake and take some pictures. I can tell that KB wants to keep going and who wouldn’t? Our surroundings are amazingly beautiful. The lake sits in a bowl surrounded by peaks well over 13,000 feet. She looks at me as I turn and head up. She kind of throws a fit, but I really just want to make my watch click to 10,600.
You get no answer. The guru still hasn’t acknowledged that you exist and you start to wonder if he’s even alive. You wave your hand in front of his face. Your words that seemed so important and alive right in front of your face have been forgotten. Your lost in your doubts about why you are there, whether the guru even knows anything anyway and when it would be appropriate to stand up and walk away. Finally your boredom defeats your determination and you move away.
Your step has a little more spring in it as you descend back down the path you so struggled to climb. At first you are disappointed in your journey and that the guru was such a prick. But as you get lost in the rhythm of descent, one foot in front of the other, down, rock, another step, one foot in front of the other, your thoughts wander to other places and you are happy that you are where you are. The guru fades from your desires and you forget the feelings you had as you sat there waiting for his answer. You feel happy that you made the journey even if what was supposed to be the pinnacle wasn’t. Your mind wanders to the next journeys you could take, the new places you could see, the lives that you could live if you let yourself and soon the answers that you thought were so important seem trivial.
You begin to wonder if the guru even existed. Maybe he was a figment of your imagination and the fact that he didn’t answer, or even move while you were there, was simply the fact that there are no answers. That question you blabbered out, maybe you just needed to throw it into the nothingness to realize that the answer isn’t important. Maybe the guru was real and the answer was that there is no answer other than climbing mountains to look for them and experiencing the now.
And you find yourself just walking in the wilderness thinking. And all is well.
P. L. and R.