Blue Ridge Mountains, Virginia

Nervous laughs, butterflies.
Numb with cold, fear and doubt -
A warrior ready for the coming battle (within myself).
For Bald Mountain is ever passive, indifferent, inscrutable.

I climb mindlessly, relentlessly up the rocks.
Through the stillness in primal perseverance -
An intruder who disrupts the morning harmony of the wilderness.
Now pushing up through slippery rockpiles, then fording icy rapids; 
Jumping steep, fallen logs in narrow gorges but ever upward.
Leaders have turned around at the midpoint and are now returning -
They fly past me in the dreamlike mist,
Ghosts with indomitable hearts and souls,
Descending fast and sure - leaping, soaring, gliding,
Dancing with grace and laughter over lethal jagged edges,
Offering a nod, a wave, a smile, a “Good Job!” in midflight -  
To me, still struggling toward the sky.

Floating between cloud layers;
Rain, fog, rocks, lichens, bare brown sleeping oak, loose rock, roots, mud.
Nothing level, piercing wind chill, body white with accumulated fog.
Cramping, coughing, pain and doubt.
Roaring rapids in gorges below - one misplaced step to eternity.
Why am I doing this at age 64?  Because I can.

My youthful grace (left on the ridge) is
Replaced by concrete legs in gravity's grip.
Leaping, reaching, grasping at stripped twigs,
Racing recklessly down the rockpile,
Flying headlong out of control.
No judgment - only raw perception and instinct;
Airborne and building a parachute in each free fall;
Building wings with each awkward crashing bound;
Knee screaming;
Blasting down the vertical precipice
Into and through the deep raging sucking current.

Pushing mindlessly. . . legs depleted.
Finally - the blacktop!
Now hearing playful dogs barking;
Gill and Francesca whooping encouragement!
Pain, exhilaration, euphoria, ecstasy -
I am alive!

William Walsh    3/26/09