Mountains in moonlight


Eight years ago, he was a mountain man and I a curly-headed dreamer hovering between idealism and conservatism.  He kissed me when he got off the plane, in a desolate airport tunnel just outside the gate, the gray carpeted walls dulling the senses as my lips buzzed and my vision blurred.  We hiked through the rough-cut stubble of summer ski runs, legs on fire from the dry weeds, and lungs burning on the relentless climb upward.  That day is the most alive I'd ever felt, to that point.  At the top of Mount Washington, the wind cut a trough through the rustle of grass and we tread doggedly up the wooden planks to the ski lift platform, bare in the summer sun, just a stack of two-by-fours nailed down to make a ramp.  He put his arm around my waist and a shiver down my spine and I knew, again - this man I will marry, if ever he gives me the chance.

I drive through this same expanse of mountain ranges tonight.  Their tree-topped peaks roll like the giant humps of a camel in the blue light of the full moon.  In the valleys, the reservoirs and rivers are lit a glittering silver and snake away under the bridges like a necklace dropped hastily onto the bedstand at night.  A deer stands stock still, parallel with the lines of the road, penned in by the concrete walls erected to keep the cars from hurtling off into the night ravines while the road is rebuilt.  I can't swerve, and just clip his legs with the loaned little black car that has carried us from Wisconsin to Pennsylvania and now carries us haltingly home.  My heart races up, and the pacemaker catches and it slows again, and my vision swims as the blood drops down, down into my shoes while my heart leaps into my throat in a strangled exclamation.  I pull off, survey the damage, drag the cold night air deep into my lungs as I bend over and let the blood ascend again to my brain that screams for oxygen.

We reach the hotel in the wee morning hours, and I know immediately, through two cigarette-burn-holes for eyes, that I will not sleep easy tonight.  Too much suffering in the past years has destroyed that last thing I took for granted...the closing of the eyes, and the numbing wave that comes, and the little wake-dreams flitting like shadows through the hallways of your brain, and then finally, the anesthesia of deep sleep.  It alludes me now, after smashing head against porcelain and leaving the iron deposits of blood in the precious lobular gray of my mind.

Oh, the suffering that has washed over us, big giant 5 foot rollers of surf on this sea of life, relentless, like the waves of wind whipping Mount Washington as we smiled for the camera in 2002.  How much my mountain man has changed, how much have I changed!

A man spoke halting tonight about his deepest wounds as a child, and there was the just-swallowed salad stuck in my throat and suddenly washed in bile as I heard his anguish and the visceral memory of my own flooded over me.  His voice pleading as he spoke of sleeping every night with his rosary, and begging those familiar words from the Lord's prayer - "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us".  I wanted him to know that he can be washed forever clean, forever lavished with the Holy Spirit.  So I hugged the steel of his shoulders and washed his black shirt with my tears, and read Titus 3:3-7 in his shamed, grieving, red-hot ear...
At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
Another version says that the Holy Spirit is lavished upon us.  All today is redeemed, because I look to the author and finisher of my faith, who for the joy set before endured the Cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of God (Hebrews 12:2).   The tears shed are redeemed, the vomiting up of salad in shock and pain is redeemed, the quivering hands as I passed a gift on to a friend now still dearer in person than on screen.  The driving through the ghostly moonlit mountains, and the soul conversation with a God who confounds me, leaving my knees weak and my eyes damp and my soul roiling in turmoil.

I asked, back on that mountain in Vermont eight years ago, to be stirred up.

I whispered then, if this man I'm standing next to, God - this mountain man who lights my flames and tends them sweetly - if he is husband, stir me up and keep me with him.

If this life I'm living, God - if this pain that sears deep and scars soul and tearing, surgically changes the heart and keeps me up and typing at 5 a.m., body wracked with exhaustion - if this life is your path, God, stir me up and keep me on it.

Grant me the peace to bury this soul chaos as I close eyes again for sorely needed rest, Lord.  Give me journey mercies tomorrow.  Bring me home safe to keep on living like I'm dying.  Awake me fresh tomorrow to the purpose you've kept me alive another day to fulfill.