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Odes

Ode to Mountain Peaks and Climbing

Mountain peaks are rarified. There is something very special about getting to the very top of a mountain. The vertex, turning point in its very most basic meaning, is a place from which you can only change direction. The amount of effort that it takes to get to the peak of a mountain may be great or small. There are as many mountains and kinds of challenges as you may like, but they are always challenges in some way. To overcome the pull of gravity, to defy it until it turns from being adversary to friend for your descent is a true accomplishment. It improves the world. You feel powerful at the top of a mountain peak, knowing that it was your body alone that brought you there. You know that you have entered the company of an elite few that have ever persevered to reach those heights. Occasionally, a peak is forested, and you are unsure that you have even reached it as you gaze through the window frames of the trees. However, most of the time, at the peak of a mountain, you have the chance to look down over the leaping ridges and plunging valleys that comprise the mountain. You can look out for a distance far greater than you would by standing alone, and this gives you perspective on the world. You at once feel bigger and smaller. The bigness comes from your accomplishment and ability to see so far as to discern the very curvature of the world. The smallness comes from your perspective standing next to a rock or tree and seeing countless others that comprise the world below, knowing that you are just a tiny part of what makes the world. Mountain peaks are cooler than their surroundings. You ascend to thinner, brisk air. You find yourself with a breeze that was blocked by the ridges you climbed before. You can find the rarest, Alpine tundra, habitats at the tops of mountains. On the ascent to a peak, you have the chance to see all the varied topography that the world has to offer. Waterfalls lurk around corners, betraying their presence only in sound until the last moment. Ridges may be gentle or severe. They create the ramps and ladders to ascend the mountain, and they may be friendly to your ascent to the peak above or leave you unexpectedly on the edge of a canyon. Canyons are a vital part of a mountain and show the strata and composition of the mountain. They reveal the beauty of pure earth often hidden by plants. The plants themselves create the varied panoply and fireworks of the natural world, and they give shelter to the animals that may grace you with their ephemeral presence only if fortune is with you. The ecosystems change as you wander up the mountain, and gives you a chance to view in short the entirety of your surrounding world. The songs of birds encourage and exalt your ascent, but at the peak there is near silence. You are gifted the moment to think, to rest, to contemplate, to nourish your body and replenish the energy required to ascend. The sun warms your skin and maintains you to begin the descent. As you descend, gravity become your ally, and you are left most profoundly with the memories of treasured views and value intangible that increases your inherent strength.