When I reach the cross at the very top, I pant like a soon-to-be-mother. My shirt is drenched in sweat. The always present mountain breeze turns sweat into chills. I hurry to pull on my wind jacket. The wind howls where the metal cross breaks its path. Aside from that, I hear the beats of my own heart, caused by the unique mixture of exhaustion, elation, and gratitude to be a spectator of such majesty. I take my time to look around and soak it all in. I am alone. I find some smoother rocks that look as though they accommodated hundreds, if not thousands of other tired hikers. I settle onto them and become part of the scenery. Long shadows accentuate the depth of valleys between edgy rock formations that tower above thick sleeves of evergreens. Rows of wooded mountain peaks become hazier the farther away they are. Lonely cumulus clouds wedge themselves behind some of the peaks. Free-roaming mountain cattle, a few miniature houses and roads sprinkle into pastures below a nearby mountain. When my eyes are satisfied, I close them and turn my face toward the sun. Once in a while, my ears catch the hunting call of some raptors. Innerconnected solitude and peace begin to spread throughout every cell. My soul floats in nowhereland.
A shadow appears, covers the sunlight. Am I not alone after all? I open my eyes -- only to squint against blinding rays. I look around. No one in sight. I search the sky for clouds. There are a few, but far from the sun. I close my eyes again.
The shadow reappears. What is going on? Am I going crazy? I open my eyes, check my surroundings once more -with the same result as before. I chuckle to myself, close my eyes. The shadow awaits me.
Who are you? I finally ask the mystery. To my own surprise, I receive a jumble of answers from somewhere deep within. One of them stands out:
I swallow. “Please, go away! I thought I left you behind.”
--Haven’t you noticed that you cannot outrun me? I will stay with you wherever you go. Like a well-trained guide dog. Just like the other ones.
My stomach churns. Acidity presses upwards. I swallow harder. “What other ones are you talking about?”
--To name only a few companions: Hate, Worry, Guilt, Shame, Greed, etc.. I am their Alpha dog. You would be well advised to address me first.
Previous pearls of sweat have turned into icicles. They melt on my skin. I shiver.
“All I want is peace. That’s why I came here. Please leave me alone, I want to enjoy this afternoon and not think about anything else!”
--You don’t have to think. I invite you to see and feel! How long will you continue to deny my existence? Do yourself a favor, have a good look at me. Acknowledge me! Feel me! For once, allow your entire being to be taken over by me without any distractions!
I cringe. I don’t like that idea at all: “What if I don’t want to?”
--Didn’t you just notice? I am always there. You will never lose me. You have invested lots of energy into ignoring me. Not knowing that the more you ignore me, the bigger I become over time.
Every sharp edge of the rocks beneath me poke through my pants. I shift -to no avail.
--Just acknowledge us! Look at each one of us! Feel each one of us! Then we can shrink! Start today with me.
“That is too hard!”
--Hasn’t it become harder and harder to hide us?
I flinch. The voice is right. “How do I know you will diminish after I look at you?” I want reassurance.
--You will have to try and trust, is the answer.
I don’t like it. The stray voice, though, presses on:
--Come on, what do you have to lose? Give it a try, just once in all sincerity! If you like it or not, we are part of you. We want to be acknowledged just like any loyal companion. Giving us attention, won’t harm you, I promise.
“Will you leave me alone then?”
--We will shrink back to normal size and recede into the background.
What do I have to lose? Resisting would require too much effort. I need my energy for the descent. I feel cold yet unable to move a muscle. With reluctance, I surrender at last. I agree to face my own shadow, my fear.
The voice applauds my courage. It instructs me to be still and let an image appear on its own volition. “Do not engage your mind!” it tells me. I obey. A scene appears before my internal eye:
A young woman places a baby girl with utmost gentleness in a bassinet. The baby’s face looks content, glued to her mother’s face. While she covers the baby with a soft blanket, the woman sings a lullaby in a soothing tone of voice. She kisses the tiny face, switches off the lights, and leaves the room. The door remains slightly ajar. A sliver of light seeps through the opening. Aside from that, the entire room is swallowed by darkness. Within seconds the baby starts crying. The tiny voice becomes more and more demanding, desperate. She sobs, whimpers. No one returns to soothe her.
--The fear you have experienced lately is the same fear of abandonment you felt then, the voice comments. Just caress the baby and tell her that you always will be there for her, no matter what! That’s all she needs to hear.
The voice doesn’t have to ask twice. Every cell of my body aches until I take the baby out of the bassinet and rock her in my arms. The crying stops. Huge blue eyes pose silent questions. I look straight into them, smile and repeat in a reassuring voice: “I am here for you. I always will be, no matter what! We are all grown up now and I am your best friend! The only one you will ever need!”
The image fades.
The voice has fallen silent.
My tear-smeared face dries in sunlight. I open my eyes again and remain seated a little longer.
Strangely reenergized, my feet dance around rocks on the way down. With the sun behind me, they follow my elongated shadow.
About the author
Anja Kerstin Kuentzel,
Advanced Grief Recovery Method specialist, nature lover, photographer, and bilingual wordsmith combines her passions to offer a different perspective on life that might inspire, raise awareness or even heal.