Haibun Today
koi

A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Editor
Volume 5, Number 3, September 2011



Melissa Allen
Madison, Wisconsin, USA

 

Climbing

March in the Smokey Mountains. At the base of the tallest peak, it's spring. The air is room temperature, the light that filters through the trees is green and yellow, a wide assortment of living things are singing and squeaking and darting around, disturbing the undergrowth, making scrabbling noises on tree trunks.

My eyes and my ears are having a hard time keeping up with our pace. I follow you, because I'm very young and you, although also very young, are slightly older, and furthermore you have done more, much more, than I in your life, gone more places, seen more strange things, learned more about how to stay afloat in a world I feel like I'm drowning in.

The season changes as the mountain rises. First there's a chill in the air, then there's a growing silence. Then the green fades from the forest, then there's frost underfoot. Then—as we near the top—we are walking through snow, an inch, three inches, six inches, a foot of snow. We're wearing sneakers and sweatshirts. I keep following you, because the plan was to climb the mountain and you have not changed the plan.The slope of the mountain is beginning to flatten. I wonder how you know when you've reached the top of a mountain. I imagine it as a child's drawing, a sharp peak, barely large enough to stand on. But as it turns out, it's a wide,flat place: it's just the end of up.

We stand in the snow with others who have made the climb. All of us want some kind of gong to ring, some kind of butler to announce our presence. All there is is the snow and the sky. And at the very edge of the mountain, all the down we have overcome to get here. Smaller mountains and the valleys between them. Far below, the green we inhabited this morning. Things are too small to see, too large to comprehend.

I feel, for the first time, as if I've gotten somewhere. On the way down, I lead the way.

mountain's edge
knowing me
the way you do

end

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