(Originally written: August 6, 2018)
When you’re up on Pike’s Peak it’s easy to forget your mortality. A snow-covered mountaintop towering over its neighbors and turning them into hills. Some clouds find it difficult to reach its majestic height. Like a bird that is forced to build its nest at a lower branch than it would like, the clouds settle at a level that’s tantalizingly close to the top. Pike’s Peak is turned into an island with a sea of thick, cotton candy clouds separating it from other landmasses. You can almost picture a fantastical whale cresting the soft cumulus curves. If you look carefully, you can maybe even see a fisherman throwing his line out.
It’s the air up there that lends to these magical imaginations. No hint of pollution. So crisp that you can feel each breathe of air poke sharply into your nose and so cold that even the warmth of your lungs is dwarfed and forgotten. All the realities you face in the world that cloud your vision are cleared away with each breath until you can see well enough to wave back to the fisherman.
I was smiling at the brave fisherman when the man next to me laughed. Caught up in my dream I hadn’t even acknowledged him despite knowing he was there. I turned to see what he was laughing at right as he looked at me. Seeing my questioning glance, he shrugged and said, “Ahhh…. The sweet embrace of death.”
He was right. All it would take is one misstep and you would briefly be able to pet the sky whale before continuing your descent. As you freeze and plummet down you’ll be reminded of how fragile you really are. You may climb Pike’s Peak and stand on it like a conqueror. But you can’t even compare to the clouds that failed to rise past it.
The mountain was speaking through the man and humbling me. I laughed with him so the mountain would know that I understood.