Forever 1.4: Up, the Mountain

            Glen climbed all that day until he reached a point where the trees themselves were not as tall as they had been, and the air was not as thick.  He thought to stop a little before dark as he found a sheltering of boulders with trees overhead.  He wanted to thank the lady for his supper and thought to let his thanks blow off in the wind with the hope it would arrive at the right place, then he pulled out his cloth and curled up and slept.

            That night he saw people helping people.  He saw that woman in India starting that great work.  He dreamed of churches feeding the hungry, helping the poor and dropping lifelines into the pit of poverty.  He saw government types come along and cut those lines while they dumped pig slop into the pit for the people there to eat.  But still, he understood that there were those in the world trying to make a difference for good – trying to make things better, and the name of Jesus was not yet ignored or forgotten.  When he woke in the morning he felt a real sense of peace in his heart.  He never felt that feeling before and rarely felt it since.

            Then he noticed it had snowed in the night.  The air was crisp, but clean and fresh.  He packed hurriedly as the feeling of urgency returned to him, and he started right out to climb.  It got cold, and in time the trees fell away and rocks took over the landscape.  He was shivering when he took out his cloth and thought to drape it around his shoulders.  To his surprise, the cloth shaped itself to his little body.  It formed a long coat and built in sleeves with mittens attached.  It even formed a hood which he put up against the wind which had picked up and was blowing fresh snow in his face.

            Glen slipped any number of time, but he never slid down the mountain, always finding some stone he could grab or set his feet against.  He began to wonder how tall this mountain might be and he began to wonder if he would ever get to the top.  He began to question the Lady in White.  He began to question everything.  He thought again about 1192 and almost went back down to hunt for him, but the urgency he felt just doubled in his heart and so he struggled on.

            Finally he came to a small cliff.  Poor Glen did not like heights under the best of circumstances.  Here he felt sure the rocks would be slippery and that he would get half-way up and slip and fall.  But there was no other way if he was going to climb to the top.

            Not looking down was the easy part, except when he had to be sure of getting his foot in the right place.  Even then he tried only to look at his foot.  Sadly, that was not always possible.  Glen did not know the way of cliffs, but he was sure the cliff was getting higher as he climbed it rather than him getting closer to the top. 

            At one point, he saw no place for his hands and thought he might have to climb down or attempt a sideways scoot where he was sure he would lose his grip.  He wanted to cry.  His eyes were drawn down.  He felt dizzy.  “No.”  He said that out loud and looked up.  There was a little crack he was sure was too small, but he reached and pulled and as he rose, he saw a bigger rock above.  He grabbed on tight.

            Glen was exhausted when he grabbed hold of the lip of the cliff and pulled himself up to safety.  The snow just had to move out of the way because he was pushing through.  When his feet were all the way up so he was in no danger of falling. He turned to his back and stared at the sky.  He was in a saddle between peaks.  On his left, the rocks continued up another hundred yards before they touched the sky.  On his right, the mountain went up much further to where it was lost in the clouds.  The saddle itself was a hundred feet across and relatively flat and Glen thought, safe.

            “Welcome.”  Glen heard the voice and shrieked.  “Do not be afraid.”  All the same, Glen scooted away from the edge and ran smack into a pair of white boots.  They went with the white pants, white shirt covered by a great white beard, white bushy eyebrows and white hair which was mostly hidden by the white hood of the white cloak that fell all the way to the snow.  In fact, the only things that did not blend into the snow covered landscape were the man’s two rosy red cheeks and two lavender-blue eyes that sparkled with life and appeared to dance in the cold air.  That, and the warm golden glow that framed the man like a halo of some sort.

            As Glen looked up into that kindly face, he said the first thing that popped into his head.  “Santa?”

            The man laughed, very much like Santa, until he stopped suddenly and returned two words.  “Absolutely not.”  The man let those words linger in the air while he reached out a white mitten.  “But come.  You must be sweating after your climb, but soon enough the heat will wear off and you will get a chill out here.  Come inside where it is warm.”  He turned to the side, and Glen saw the source of halo light behind.  It was a cave, and there was a roaring fire inside.

            Glen took that hand and followed the man into the warmth.  After all, the man looked very much like Santa.  Once inside, the man took off his cloak, and without the fat Glen imagined out in the snow, he looked more like Father Time than Father Christmas.

            Glen sat by the fire and  realized how cold he was.  After a moment, he looked in his pack and pulled out the last bit of bread.  It was not much, but he broke it and held out half.

            “Would you like some?”

            The man suddenly gave Glen his attention and graciously took the piece.  He stared at it and put it once to his nose.  He said nothing for a moment and looked again at Glen.  Glen did not feel uncomfortable under the man’s gaze.

            “I sense my wife’s cooking in this.”

            And Glen understood.  “Dressed in white with her big white puppy,” Glen confirmed.  “She said she often wanted to climb higher but that is not her way.”

            The man nodded.  “Nor is it my way to climb down.  But I will see her again.  We will be together again.  It has been prophesied.”  Glen felt glad to hear that.  “But come,” The man motioned for Glen to follow him further into the cave, to the table.  “I have been remiss in my manners.  You must be hungry.”

            Glen was, and the table was covered in dishes.  There was tender, melt-in-your-mouth roast beef, mashed potatoes, green beans and corn, apples and pears, and plenty of bread and butter and milk to wash it all down.  Glen thought he was in heaven.  He ate too much.

            Glen wanted nothing more than to sleep, but the man was dressed again for the outside and insisted Glen follow.  He took Glen a hundred yards to the other side of the mountain saddle.  Glen looked down on a great checkerboard of land and all the way to a blue horizon which he felt sure was the endless sea.  The sun was preparing to set off to their right, though it was already more than dark enough where they stood.  Glen really wanted to sleep, but the man directed Glen’s eyes to the scene below and spoke.

            “Tell me what you see.  Tell me everything you see.”

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