Now the mountain ahead reveals its full, awesome height. Seven years -- 4,151 hours of hiking, as it were -- have put scarcely any distance between me and base camp. I have yet to even set foot on the Khumbu icefall. No, I'm not climbing with oxygen bottles, crampons, and a ladder on my back. I'm practicing guitar. I need not fear -- like anyone who literally approaches Sagarmatha -- being crushed by a block of ice the size of a ten story office building.
My guitar mountain is motor skills and music theory, not marble and limestone. Ice won't crush me. But expectations, comparisons, or discouragement just might, as the past year has reminded me. And with this year came a new and disturbing awareness of my age -- so gradually, but oh, so insidiously making its presence felt, as if the grade is steepening.
It might take me another seven years to finish the course. Maybe seventeen. Maybe I will never summit my guitar mountain. Yet I'm still climbing, through the disappointments, the mild embarrassments, the setbacks. I rest. I recalibrate.
Perhaps my energy and focus aren't quite what they used to be. But I can remind myself that I'm now equipped with three real supports that I didn't have when I originally set out.
There’s knowing that I've met every challenge presented so far. Maybe it took five times longer than I expected, but I got there. What’s more, small miracles keep appearing. Help has always materialized when I needed it, sometimes in surprising forms. Best of all, I now find myself surrounded by fellow climbers, beginners and experts, who constantly remind me of the joy to be found on our musical path. They are my sherpas. We have each other's backs.
I will never see the Himalaya from Sagarmatha’s summit at 29,000 feet. The mountain gods bestow that privilege upon only a handful of worthy mortals. But I have seen the Himalaya while perched a modest 5,000 feet in the Kathmandu valley: from the magnificent tip of sacred Machapuchare in the west over to the great goddess of the heavens herself. Even from the lowlands, it was breathtaking — a soul-stirring vista worth every step of the trip.
So I climb.