Climb the mountain," the hiking instructor yelled, and I thought to myself, "it's only a steep hill, but I kept quiet." Let the young fellow call it a mountain and encourage us to climb as if it were Everest.
The year was 2001. While waiting for my directed study to begin, I was taking a hiking class at Northern Michigan University. The class was in May and lasted about four weeks. I looked forward to it with all the enthusiasm of a youngster. The scenery was beautiful, the black flies were still sleeping, and the weather cooperated with sunshine and a minimum of rain.
The instructor yelled again, "Climb the mountain." I don't remember which hiking trail we had taken. It might have been one on Presque Isle, North Country or Greenways. Each student chose an area to his r her liking so some trails were more treacherous than others. As I wasn't too familiar with Marquette, I'm sure I picked one with a minimum of cliffs, rocks and streams.
I was 54 years old and as agile as the teenagers around me, but I kept that secret to myself. There was no point in announcing my physical prowess and taking all the fun out of our hiking expeditions.
I walked directly behind the instructor-I'll call him Bill-and I could hear the pretty girls giggling behind me. Unlike the others, I walked with ski poles for better balance and stability. As the climb got steeper, I would occasionally tap Bill with the tip of a pole and ask for his hand. He was a good natured fellow and always obliged.
When we stopped to rest, I joined the girls. I told them one good thing about being the oldest student in the class was that I could ask for help whenever the going got rough, something they couldn't or wouldn't do because they were young and robust. They had to prove they could climb without assistance. I was old and robust, but I didn't tell them. I let them think I needed my hand held by the handsome instructor.
Sometimes we do need our hand held when going through life's rough patches. It's always nice to know there's someone willing to step forward and help us climb whatever mountain we're facing. Over the years, however, I've learned if we don't have anyone to assist us we can do it on our own. It may be a little harder and it may take a little longer, but we can find the resolve within ourselves and discover how strong we are. Self-confidence and independence will come with that discovery.
The more mountains we climb, the stronger we become. Without a steady parade of friends, neighbors, or relatives we have to look inwardly for the tenacity required to meet and overcome the challenges of daily living. Maybe some mornings we just don't want to get out of bed. When that happens, we have to remind ourselves we've climbed lots of mountains throughout the years.
That's the wonderful thing about growing older. The more we experience life and all its challenges, the easier it becomes to distinguish between really serious problems and the little blimps that cloud our radar.
The catastrophe of an empty sugar bowl doesn't seem as important to me as it once did. I used to be fanatical about keeping my salt and pepper shakers filled to the rim, likewise the sugar bowl and butter dish. I had so many kitchen rules my husband and daughter treaded cautiously when approaching the cupboards or fridge.
Years ago I posted a list above the sink reminding them to wipe the counter clean of crumbs, rinse their dishes, and put the lids back on any condiment they had used. We've all seen those good luck kitchen witches, right? Although I didn't hang on the wall, I'm sure in the eyes of my family I was on a par with one of those ladies until I realized I was making a mountain out of nothing.
Well anyway, as the weather warms here in Brimley, my thoughts turn to outdoor activities other than mandatory yard. Soon I'll lace up my hiking boots and take to the road. I miss the many hiking trails of Marquette and have to settle for a large hill about a half mile from my home. Sometimes when I scale that hill, I remember the spring of my hiking class and how much I enjoyed it and the pleasant company of the young girls and helpful instructor.
I hope each person has continued to climb all the mountains they've faced in the past 13 years. Some may have needed ski poles to assist them when the terrain was rocky and unpredictable, but I hope they put up a valiant effort and kept walking forward. At any age, we may need to hear the encouraging words of that delightful hiking instructor.
"Climb the mountain," he would say. And it's my belief if taken one step at a time it isn't all that difficult.
Editor's note: Sharon Kennedy of Brimley has earned a graduate degree in creative writing from Northern Michigan University. At 67, she calls herself a humorist and hopes readers connect with her observations on the monotony of daily life and the witty mental gymnastics humans practice to impress each other.