The Castle at Muir Camp as captured by Mitch from Costa Mesa, CA…thank you Mitch.
Maybe it’s my itchy nose.
Or knowing that I’m going where I’ve never gone before. To a mountain that comes in just under Mt. Whitney in size but can be much more intimidating. And to scale her I have to do things I’ve never done before, never thought about doing, and would have scoffed at others for considering. Only those untouchable, unreal mountaineers do things like climb Mt. Rainier in the winter or Mt. Everest at any time. Only the bravest of the brave.
…something big is brewing…rumbling…building
Only the bravest of the brave…
Only the bravest of the brave fall in love after betrayal and divorce.
Snowshoes? K. Doable. Crampons? I’m game. Ice ax? I’d like to wield one. In my backyard. Can mine have glitter?
Harness? What’s that for? You’re going to lower me in where? That sounds hairy.
But that’s the whole point of a BHAG.
There’s a shelter on Mt. Rainer at Camp Muir, 10,080 feet above Bolinas. It looks like a mini castle.
As if Shrek or some Prince-in-the-Making is going to open the wooden door and beckon me inside. There I would find a walk-in fireplace filled with crackling wood and swirling smoke, a cast iron pot of stew hanging over the flames. In the other corner a bed with wool blankets, five deep. A sheet warmer leans against the wall, it’s form reminiscent of a banjo – a wooden handle leading to a circle of metal that holds the embers as it slides between the sheets before we do. The wind dies when the door shuts. No one else is alive. I could stay there forever. Just him and me.
But instead we’ll be building snow shelters right next to the real deal. And then sleeping in them. Leaving a perfectly good castle empty. Which is just rewards for a chick that condemns Disney and fairy tales in general. I get how this rodeo works. If you don’t like ‘em, you ain’t gettin’ ‘em. Nice castle. But it’s not yours. Besides, this climb is about being uncomfortable.
The timing of its arrival couldn’t be more ideal.
When I ponder what you would say when I tell you the words that came out of my mouth as I left the east peak of Mt. Tam last Tuesday I hear, It’s because you are ready. Until today, one week later, I would have said, I am not only not ready, I’m not interested in getting ready. I’m interested in playing. Keeping it light. Que sera sera. Blowing bubbles, throwing rose petals and goofing around with emotionally unavailable men because they’re safer.
No skin in the game.
I threw 40 pounds of kitty litter in an ill-fitting backpack, drove from Bolinas to Stinson Beach and left the car on the side street by the firehouse. One other car was there. It was going to be a quiet day on the mountain. Hopefully I won’t have to hold any severed fingers or host a meet and (eat) greet with a mountain lion, I thought. This hike needs to go the distance. All the way to the East Peak and back.
I would reward myself with a salad at the Sand Dollar and feel a little more ready for Rainier.
This may strike you as odd, but 40 pounds of kitty litter is heavier than 40 pounds of anything else. I’m willing to argue that point with masters of weights and measures across the globe. It’s fact. But under its weight I felt light, buoyant. The switchbacks and stairs made from railroad ties propelled me up the lower third of the mountain. A summer blue sky colored the water. It’s shimmer so bright I could hear it. I could hear the mountain, too. She knew that day I would come. I emerged from the forest into a party of butterflies. Poppies the color of orange crayons bloomed in fresh green grass swirled with dried, smokey purple grasses slowly returning to the earth. Spring sprung. The lizards were giddy.
I wasn’t giddy, but filled with emotions. It had been building for nearly a month. The climactic high point of Act Two, unbeknownst to me, was raging, and all signs pointed toward the lowering of the curtain. A kitten helped it along when she sent to me a prayer that requests a cancellation of all outdated karmic contracts. The timing of its arrival resulted in a half smile and eyes to the sky, with the words I hear you coming from my heart. I took the prayer to bed that night and said it once before drifting off to sleep.
The next day I drove over the hill shedding tears like breadcrumbs. (I believe I may have told you that ‘over the hill’ means from west Marin to anywhere else.) Sobbing as I S’d my way along the shore of the Nicasio Reservoir. Salt water falling off my lips which spoke no words as I climbed through the hills peppered with cows grazing thanks to the recent rains. The car was silent except for my heavy, crying breaths. I called my beautiful Mom when I arrived, sharing with her my emotional ride. My former spouse drove in to the parking lot so we could exchange The Dudes’ boy scout uniforms. We hadn’t planned for this exchange. An oversight on scheduling. Or perfect scheduling. Your pick. I got out of the car. My sunglasses hid my eyes but not my state. For five minutes we spoke our words. It was mostly unnecessary. Nothing new was said.
The contract had already been voided. Overnight. I felt physically, emotionally and psychically altered. It was finished.
Completely, totally, utterly over.
The night before my weighted climb on Mt. Tam I accepted the invitation of a man I struck up a friendship with while sweating over the course of training for Rainier. We’ve acknowledged each other with smiles for months now. Then discovered a shared love of words, an understanding of the power of Everest, a respect for risk and reward. One day he asked for the URL to HGM. I obliged in a text. Later that day he replied, “I’ve worked for approximately 17 seconds this afternoon. I’ve read your blog for four and half hours.”
One month later I drove down a hill, through a forest and to a house built on the side of Mt. Tam. It was a spontaneous plan we hatched – get together and talk about HGM. I pondered nothing beyond that, even though there were flirtatious messages being sent my way. I deflect those like Wonder Woman. He’s not really flirting with me. He’s just flirtatious because all men are flirtatious. It can’t possibly be because of me.
We sat on the deck of his home, a valley rolled out below. Redwoods, each the same height, stepped down the hillside. The sun was setting. The ridge in the distance turned from green to black, birds hopped along the treetops. We talked about the blog, at first. But we were really there to talk about each other. I mainly listened as he shared with me the choices he has made and the consequences. It wasn’t unlike many encounters I’ve had recently where people who I barely or not at all know unveil to me who they genuinely are. And tell me what they need to speak out loud.
Then, several hours later, he walked toward me as I stood in his kitchen and kissed me.
I’m pretty sure my heart burst open.
I took the next day’s hike quite seriously. I needed to listen to my body. And I needed to be on the trails. I wasn’t ‘hung over’ from my emotional and delicious night before. Rather, I was pretty calm. Who knows. I’ve got a mountain to climb. Sweet evening. Nothing to launch ships over. Focus, Cleo. By the time I hit Boot Jack I was deep in my body and taking in the vibrations and smells of Tam.
The East Peak was windswept. I chose a rock on the opposite side of where I normally sit to eat a piece of fruit. A raven came to join me. At first he sat five feet away. And slowly, likely drawn in by my pear, he came to rest on the rock at my elbow. He was stunningly beautiful. Chocolate brown eyes, shiny, rich, midnight blue-black feathers. So big and curious and comfortable. I bit off a piece of my pear and held it in my hand. He took it with a surprisingly powerful snap of his beak.
We shared the pear. And when it was down to core and seeds I gave it to him. I wanted to lift him in my arms and stroke him but that was not how we said goodbye. Instead, I stood up and he looked at me. A minute later he flew away.
A mile later, as I stood looking out over the ocean, I had an out of body experience. I heard my self say, I’m ready to fall in love.
It wasn’t as a direct result of the prior evening’s kiss. The words were waiting to be spoken for several days. This was the time.
I was taken by surprise but made sure that I didn’t doubt myself. And that I didn’t send out a confusing message. I was sure this was what I needed to say.
I’m ready to fall in love.
Three miles later he texted me, in essence: I’ll come to you. You come to me. Either way. Tonight.
So it wasn’t until a few days later that I remembered to look up the totem meaning for the Raven. And this is what I found:
Magic, Healing, Creation
If a raven totem has come into our life,
magic is at play.
Raven activates the energy of magic
and links it to our will and intention.
With this totem, we can make great changes
in our life;
the ability to take the unformed thought
and make it reality.
The raven shows us how to go into the dark of our inner self and bring out the light of our true self; resolving inner conflicts which have long been buried.
This is the deepest power of healing we can possess.