Highland sheep dotted the roadside under the pre-dawn sky. The velvet canopy looked like flocks of faeries had tossed fistfuls of glitter at the new moon only to have it stashed inside the Big Dipper and then purposefully strewn across the Milky Way by their extraterrestrial counterparts so that this tiny group of earthlings might stand in awe of the universe’s expansive beauty from the gravel car park at the foot of Beinn Hiant, Scotland’s Magic Mountain*, the highest hill on the Ardnamurchan peninsula.
The bulky behemoth’s size was clear from the patch of twinkling stars that it blocked from sight. The mountain is touted as being an easily manageable ascent in the tourist guides, but for the out-of-shape slug I’d recently become, I viewed watching the sunrise with my retreat companions after a seventeen-hundred-foot hillwalk more like an expedition up Everest.
I have my excuses, for turning into a sloth, that is, and here are three of them: the slave-driving dog that forced me out hiking twice a day died last December, I’m working on my next novel so I must take to heart the ‘butt-in-chair’ advice proposed by many well-known authors to achieve my goal, and I detest going to gyms (unless it’s this Jim’s).
In any event, I set the intention of doing the best that I could. With a deep breath, I sucked in my resolve, switched on my flashlight, and trained it at the rugged path etched on the steep incline. Falling in step behind the others, I used the spongy tufts of dried grasses that stubbled the lower level of the mountain like stepping-stones above the muddy terrain or, when they were too high, I maneuvered my way around them.
Up, up, up I trudged, willing my aching body forward and squelching that voice in my head that wanted to give up until the path plateaued on the moorland and I caught up with the group. It was still too dark to see how far we’d come or how much further we had to go, so with heavy sighs propelling me forward, I continued to follow the others across a grassy slope before the ground steepened again with a short rocky section and ended upon a ridge.
At this point, with my hips screaming at me to lay down and die, I broke the silence. “Go on without me. I’ll wait here until you guys are done.” But then, as if some greater force were listening, a hint of sunlight splashed across the horizon…
I was happy. I was done. I’d seen what I’d come to see – a stunning sunrise, its golden light flooding across the land – spotlighting the gorse, lichen, highland heather, bracken, with their fiddleheads turned to the sky, dried fronds of wooly haired moss, even a raptor, quite possibly an eagle soaring over Loch Sunart!
“All right then, let’s go!” The leader headed uphill.
“No. I’m done!” I threw up my hands. “Every time we make it over the next rise, it keeps on going. Up, up, and up. When will it end?”
“When you get to the top. How about you lead us there.” Then that
sneaky insightful man stepped aside, urging me forward with one arm open to the path.
“Well, at least everyone can travel at my pace now,” I grumbled under my breath.
Then I looked up. Holy Mountain, indeed.
Holy Crapola, is what I thought when I saw even the sheep egging me on.
Okay! Push through. Focus on where I want to go! One foot in front of the other!
Ten steps in, it got ugly.
The tears came first.
Then the sniffling, the swearing…
A hundred more determined steps and the level below the peak was in sight – a steep, narrow, rocky track – more tears, wailing, and plenty of snot.
Up I went. At times, on all fours.
It was too late to fail. I could feel the trail of twenty people behind me silently urging me on – holding the space for me to succeed. And I did. We did.
We reached the summit together and drank in the view, along with a nice cup of steaming tea. We held hands in ceremony with a prayer for peace (inner and outer), then gazed in silence upon the tranquil islands of Muck, Eigg and Rum, Mull, Coll and Tiree until it was time to begin the descent…
Once I saw Beinn Haint from the single track road in the daylight,
I found it almost impossible to believe that I made it to the top.
This holy, magic, enchanted mountain shall forever be my Everest – a reminder of how my intention of reaching my goal can be achieved no matter how outlandish it may seem. All it takes is moving at my own pace – placing one foot in front of the other. A little help from my friends along the way doesn’t hurt either.
* Beinn Shianta, the Gaelic name for Beinn Hiant, has several meanings – magic, holy, enchanted, charmed or blessed mountain.
~ Happy Thanksgiving Day ~
~ And Thank You for stopping by ~