He ignored the pain in his fingers and toes. Even through shoes, his feet were bruised, battered, and aching. He kept his eyes on the long sought and hard won view before him, avoiding the bloody fingers, nails torn and broken, dirt filling every crevice.
He held his knees close to his body, another body part to avoid looking at. He could feel the skin worn, tender bruises, and the chill of the mountain air teasing the gashes left behind by the rough basalt he’d scaled.
Was the view worth it? The wide wilderness of rock and pine before him reaching out and down for kilometers? Was the view of the sun glancing through the last of the late morning clouds to scatter shadows across the mountains enough to justify the body-battering?
Is it the view that made me climb up here, torturing bone and muscle? Or the journey itself, he wondered? Was it the goal or the journey to the goal? Why do mountain climbers climb? Adventure stories from childhood focused on the attempt, the struggle to attain, the courage to keep going, the self-discipline to see it through to the top. Few stories told much of the beauty after the attainment of the peak.
So it isn’t the goal that matters. He pulled his knees closer as he sat on the top of the rock he’d just scaled. It’s the climbing, the testing of the body, mind, and spirit to endure. It was the courage to face the pain as well as the view.
Well, I’ve done it. I’ve scaled the peak.
He stood up and pulled the camera from his pocket. Two quick snaps of the digital camera, flash going off automatically, would preseve the moment.
“John, get down from there.” He turned from the spectacular view. “We’re going to be late for the plane.”
Six feet below him stood his mother, a worn and wiry woman determined to spend her retirement years dragging him from one dream vacation experience to another, spending his inheritance and the pension money she’d saved up for years as a telephone company employee.
He sat down and slid, fell, his way down the rock, tearing a back pocket of his shorts.
“Oh, no. Look at you! We’ll have to clean you up before you get in the car. It’s a rental, you know.” She opened the blue Camry and fetched some wet wipes she always carried “in case of emergencies” in her purse.
“Looks like you had quite an adventure. Was it worth it?”
He didn’t say anything, just bit his lip as she attacked the scrapped knees with the stinging cloth.
It was worth it.