One of us lives on the east coast. One of us lives on the west.

One of us lives in a rural community. One of us lives in a city.

Both of us wander. Both of us witness. Both of us write.

This is a record of what we find.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Camel's Hump Happy Birthday

My good friend, Maryanne, keeps a tradition of walking up Camel’s Hump Mountain on her birthday, and this past weekend I was lucky enough—with two other friends—to participate in this (strenuous!) ritual.

Camel’s Hump is Vermont’s third highest mountain and its highest undeveloped peak. It is part of the Green Mountain range, and is thus one of the oldest mountains on earth. You know this without being told, though—the mountain feels old. Even as you ascend its steep winding trails, it feels like it is deeply rooted in the earth, like it has been around for a long time, has seen everything. Its trees and plants and even its rock ledges seem to be elders, standing vigil for all who pass.

It is the perfect place to celebrate a rite of passage.

Camel’s Hump summit rises above the tree-line and so the last .3 miles of the trek are made in an alpine landscape consisting of primarily tundra. What a vast difference from the fir and deciduous trees below! And hiking into the tundra feels like entering a new world. On this particular hike, because it was snowing when we ascended and was blue-sky sunny when we descended, we had the experience of feeling like we entered four different worlds over the course of our trek. Time shifted, perspectives changed, and our boots on the trail and our ears in the wind—our whole entire bodies—became new again and again and again.

As you know, I usually link to a book that has inspired or been inspired by the post-of-the-day. Today, I am going to try something new. Below is end of the text from one of my picture book manuscripts that has yet to be published. I began this manuscript years before I knew about my friend’s amazing tradition. If I ever do get it published I will dedicate it to her. For now, I dedicate this blog post to her.

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Rosie felt like she was balanced on the highest place in the world.

“We made it to the top!” she squealed.

Rosie spun on her toes, threw her head back into the air, and crooned and howled at the top of her lungs. Mama joined in her song and the waterfall of their voices flowed down the trail. The tundra heard them. The balsam tree heard them. The hemlock tree heard them. Even the birch trees, all the way at the bottom of the mountain, heard them. Rosie and Mama spiraled and sang until they fell to the ground, happy and tired.

“I will remember this place,” said Rosie. “This is where my seven year-old legs and eyes and ears and mind—”

“— and arms and hands—,” continued Mama.

“—and toes and fingers and heart. . .” said Rosie, “this is where my WHOLE SELF climbed to on the mountain.”

Rosie shivered, joyfully, in her skin. Every part of her was open wide. Her body, her senses and her mind—they were all open wide. They felt like they were uncurling themselves for the first time, like downy leaves opening up together on the branch of a tree. She looked out at the valley and the lake and the mountains rising up on the other side of the water.

“I want to climb all the way to the top of one of those mountains,” she said.

“Next year?” said Mama.

“Yes,” said Rosie.

“Happy Birthday, Rosie,” said Mama.

Rosie and Mama hiked back toward home as the fiery heat of the setting sun baked the dirt and leaves and bark and stones, and Rosie tasted it all on her tongue like a sweet birthday treat made just for her.

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A different hike. Maryanne and I at the top of Camel's Hump.

Happy Birthday Maryanne.


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