I feel like I weigh 400 pounds today. Heart heavy with things left undone as I ponder the 90 minute car ride, the meeting that should have been an email, the slow march towards death that an office implies. Outside the lunchroom window, raindrops flutter past, synthesized from thousands of miles away to share this moment, born out of lush rivers and frigid snowfalls. I often wish for that kind of rebirth. The transparent purpose of evaporation and nourishment that every droplet knows at its start. Transience etched into their very essence.
I’m hurtling head first down an icy slope, tips of massive pine trees whizzing past my eyes as I wield my ice axe as hard as I can against the snow. My legs twirl around chaotically until I’m right side up again, digging the tips of my hiking boots hard into the side of the ridge. “STAB THE MOUNTAIN IN THE FACE,” my instructor, Eddy, yells from fifty yards away, and I do. I skid to a stop, my cheeks pink and tingly from their recent caress against the sandpaper that is a frozen peak at dawn. I regain my composure as I stumble to my feet, and I can’t help but pause and stare at the thick spider web of clouds licking the tops of neighboring mountains. I can’t feel my toes, and I’ve got the wildest, shit-eating grin on my face.
I’m standing in the middle of a closet-sized tomb, feet sunk into the muck of Canongate Kirk and the pale tremor of the supernatural upon my cheek. The tiny, stone room is crammed full of a dozen new friends from my hostel, and Olivia, our guide, beckons us to come closer. In the mud-thick dark of the new moon, she hisses, recounting the tale of the infamous Edinburgh serial killers, Burke and Hare. I take a sharp swig of whiskey out of my flask and gaze up at the beacon of stars through the cold, iron bars that crisscross above our heads, a relic to prevent corpse-stealing entrepreneurs in the 15th century. As the alcohol slowly begins to cloud my mind, I close my eyes, taking in the fuzzy damp of the graveyard through my nostrils. If ever there was a place to be a spirit, Edinburgh was it.
“I feel bad about Ben,” J.C. muttered as we tip-toed down the razor’s edge of Angels Landing. “He would have loved this.” I nodded, squinting as I peered off into the brittle, orange canyon, 1500 feet below. At that exact moment, a pair of bouncy, brunette pigtails inched over the top of the trail where the chains meet their steep demise, carried by Emma, who looked nervous, wild, and full of vertigo. Ben’s curly head of hair followed shortly behind, smiling. I laughed out loud, grinning like a maniac. Emma had faced her fears and hoisted herself up nearly a thousand feet of wet sandstone to share this moment with us, suspended in the clouds as the sun began to wash itself over the striped walls of Zion National Park. Welcome to Utah.