The Trail Up the Mountain

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Christ

This post was written in response to the Inner Child Blog Challenge that Ka sent my way…  Thank you, Ka, for the prompt…

As children, what happens swallows us whole.  We occupy slices of heaven easily.  They’re what we expect to find.  There are no beliefs to suspend in order to gain access, for our minds have yet to form them.  Our physical brains are malleable potentials, taking in light and sound with curiosity, measuring inflections and discovering the strange reality of symbol, etching into living circuitry the basic algorithms of response and interpretation that our lives will require.  We are precious and vulnerable all at once.  Tragedy at the wrong time can shift our sensitivities indefinitely, coloring the world in shadows and thorns, leaving us beset with false axioms about our relationship to pain.  Across the street, a gentler living room is the den of kings, talking bears and little houses on the prairie.

At Christmas one year, we had a book about an angel.  I don’t remember much of the story now, but I do remember the feeling.  Read it again, Dad.  I lost myself in it that evening, into the memory of places where everything works out, where an angel’s doubt was met with beauty and dissolved completely, and holy purpose was revealed.  The second time wasn’t quite the same.

Why are these glimpses so fleeting?

It was time for bed.  I usually asked Archangel Michael to take the front hallway, and put his buddy Gabriel on the roof detail.  My Dad agreed it was a sound strategy.  I knew from prior discussions that they could be at our house, and countless others as well.  This type of largesse did nothing to subtract from the protection of another.  I asked for a few more guardians as well usually—one outside the window, and one at each corner of the house, because even as children we know the power of symmetry and dimension.  I didn’t question these moments, or understand that calling on powers like these to keep you safe implies the existence of darkness.  I was merely a child, an open awareness.  I was sincere, and I slept soundly.

As children, we accept the world as we see it.  The first world we flow into is the natural one.  Years later, we sort it out.  What emerges is an adult.  Then the real sorting begins– the questions about undoing things altogether, about finding our way back to the beginning.

When I was a boy, ideas would find me that I didn’t know how to actualize.  Feeling flooded with potential, as if I could fly, I tried to make sculpture out of shaving cream, but by the next day it had evaporated.  By then the feeling had passed anyway.  I rode my bike down to the store and weaved back and forth between the bollards, populated by thoughts I no longer remember thinking.  Sometime later, moving to a more substantial medium, I managed to get a teaspoon of real clay stuck to the ceiling above the kitchen table.  I tried to brush it off with a broom, but that just spread it around.  This was not a precocious moment, and my seven year old self soon lost interest with the field of sculpture altogether.  But times continued to arrive unexpectedly in which I felt flooded with potential, like there was a cosmic eye in side of me that periodically opened.

We got a computer around then– an IBM PC Junior– and I learned how to write programs in Basic.  I carried the small three-ring binder of Basic commands with me to school, and slid it under my chair.  When I completed the classwork, I would read about how to make the computer draw lines and circles, shade them with color, or play sounds.  I wrote a thousand line program that summer that drew a scene of Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker squaring off with their light sabers in a cloud of smoke, and played the Star Wars theme song through the speaker.  It was the opening montage to a Choose Your Own Adventure game I was developing.  The Imperial Forces were closing in.  Should you take the next shuttle out, or hide in the cargo bay with the wookie?  I loved wondering where choices might lead, as it seemed they could lead right through one world and into another.

That was the same year I learned a few constellations.  I still remember the winter night I stood on the sidewalk, looking at the stars, thinking that I only had to be good for this one life, and then if I got into heaven I could relax.  I dreamed of that relaxation– knew exactly how it would feel, but the path from here to there felt thorny and confusing.  I didn’t trust myself to run the gauntlet with the needed devotion.  My mother told me she didn’t believe certain things the Church said about heaven and hell– that no God would make suffering eternal.  It rang true, and I clung to it.

To make our way, we have to trust what rings true.

I saw a time trial from the Tour de France one Saturday morning, and spent the next weeks racing up and down the streets, hunched over my handlebars, dreaming I was Bernard Hinault.  I had no idea he and LeMond were feuding.  All I could see was the way pure will and glory were somehow connected.  There was a nice bike store in the city a mile or so away, and I would ride there during the summer and browse the grown-up bikes, picturing Hinault’s face grimacing into the side of some mountain.  At night, I asked my Dad to time me while I raced around the block.  I began riding up steeper hills.  Then life intervened and something else called to me.

A friend and I plotted a hiking route up the mountain on which the city was overlaid.  The course started at my house, criss-crossed through the city, then through the wind tunnel of a small apartment complex past painted iron grating and closed doors, up the trail of a park, across a parking lot, and finally along a utility right-of-way through the woods.  The last stretch passed near a wide opening in the ground we worried was filled with thugs and bandits.  I was nervous of someone jumping out from the darkness to grab me, but also knew I couldn’t remain beholden to the anxiety and make it to the top.  Our first ascent was in the rain.  When we made it to the top, we climbed over the fence and snuck into the park, and bought sodas.

One thing led to another.

I worried the US and Russia would use nuclear weapons to destroy the planet.  The Challenger blew up and our teacher asked us how we felt about it.  I worried deep down I wouldn’t be nearly good enough for something up ahead, though I didn’t know what it was.  I wondered what all of it was, and was for.  I went out alone, years later as an adult, into the night to meet myself and grief was all I had at first.  I’m still recovering from this world I fell into, the one that made the first impression, where there wasn’t quite enough of something that everybody needed.  Transforming that world became the only worthy purpose of my life—not transforming the world exactly, so much as my erroneous conclusions about what it was, and is.

I’m plotting a new course now, with Gabriel at my left and Michael up ahead on point, and Hafiz now on my shoulder holding the lantern– a path through the skyscrapers, dark caves and abandoned corners of this world, up the mountain to the glowing door no suffering can pass… to the unity I felt in glimpses even as a boy, and wondered what it was… to the unity I wondered if I would ever deserve…

Only now I know what I didn’t know then: that I’m not alone, that we all deserve it, and the door is also finding us…

37 Comments

  1. Hi Michael,
    I sense your inner child is alive and well and comes out to play with Hafiz regularly. I enjoy the adventurer/explorer in you and your astute assignment of the angels.

    How does one remain a child with an adult’s boatload of experiences?
    That is the task of the master in training 🙂

    cosmic constellations in peace,
    Linda

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hi Linda,

      Yes, I think he is alive and well, and has a good time dashing through his imagination in new purple sneakers. Thank you for acknowledging that. From one master-in-training to another, beneath a sky flooded with endless, spiraling constellations, Michael…

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Hi Michael,
    I’m thinking back to our Tandy 1000 and then the Tandy 2500, among other things. The Challenger explosion was devastating to all. The first female teacher aboard, on top of it all. Looking forward to letting this written exposition swirl around in my head and soak it up with the bread of my thoughts 🙂
    love, Ka

    Liked by 2 people

    • Like olive oil and freshly ground pepper! Sorta’… ha!

      There is nourishment in your thoughts, Ka, of this there is no doubt!

      I honestly didn’t know what to make of the Challenger explosion at the time. I had just survived a difficult transition through three different elementary school classrooms in the span of a month or two, and I think at the time I was really flummoxed about what was expected of me. Like I didn’t know how to react to anything. It was just this image on television, and I really wasn’t aware of much of the back story, but suddenly we had a television on in our classroom and a news anchor telling us how serious it was… And a teacher asking us how we felt… And me sitting there thinking, I don’t know…

      Sometimes big events clap us with a silence or a void or something. That is what I remember. Maybe don’t soak up that piece…!

      Love
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

      • Michael,
        Yes to olive oil, fresh basil and oregano with some garlic, and a touch of balsamic vinegar. I remember seeing the Challenger explode on TV while I was at home. I think I might have just started school or was going into kindergarten or maybe 1st grade. Three different elementary school classrooms?! I remember we eagerly awaited the challenger going up because of the teacher being on board. There were going to be PBS programs planned related to it, I thought. I was a little girl, and it was a big deal for females. Plus, we (kids) all wanted to be astronauts at that age thanks to the heavy space camp advertising. Did you by any chance catch the “Voyage of the Mimi” when you were in elementary school? It’s was a PBS show about whale watching. Loved it! Happy about that stuff, Ka

        Liked by 1 person

        • Hi Ka,

          This week has rolled over me like a wave, so I apologize for the delayed response. Yes, three different classrooms. A particularly difficult time for me actually, as I recall. We moved to a new city, and I began third grade at the local Catholic school, then after about four or five weeks was advanced a grade, but the cultural adjustment was really difficult. It got to the point where I was doing what inner children do when distressed– crying on the ride to school, faking illness, etc. Mom was awesome, couldn’t bear it, and through some miracle neither of us understand I was able to get into more of an experimental public school nearby, in my own grade, with some lovely comrades.

          That is the school, and maybe even the classroom, where I remember watching the Challenger disaster. We could leave the classroom and go read in the library on our own if our class assignments were complete, so I think I was down in the library watching one of those old National Geographic film rolls in the old projectors– the ones you turned by hand to advance while listening to the cassette tapes! Then we all had to gather back in our classrooms, and maybe even went home early. I don’t remember.

          I don’t remember Voyage of the Mimi! I must have missed out! I do remember watching the old Hobbit movies in cartoon form. Loved those…

          Michael

          Liked by 2 people

          • Michael,
            I truly appreciate your thoughtful and tender response – to your own inner child – as well as with me, here. Time is its own thing. We do what we can with what we have, I suppose. I feel really happy for you that you found yourself at an experimental public school. I only dreamed of that! A lot! I do house within me some of those wounds about my early education; not having access to the resources which, even as a child, I would have appreciated. I do also realize that ‘what we end up with’ was perfect for what we need/ed. I’m glad I am exploring through education again, pursuing the current course of endeavor in Traditional East Asian Medicine. It’s a long road for me so expect me to ‘know nothing’ for a long time to come 🙂 I’ve barely scratched the surface! Life is amazing isn’t it?! I’m so grateful for our friendship. Aloha 🙂 Enjoying the navigation and mostly riding on the ride! Ka

            Liked by 1 person

            • Hi Ka,

              This is an article I found about the school I attended for about three years.

              http://www.al.com/bhammag/index.ssf/features/epic_success_story_how_one_rad.html

              I remembered as I was looking for some link on the school that once I went back to Birmingham to visit with family and decided to take a ride by the school. They found me snooping around and decided to speak with me. When I said I had been a student there they invited me into a classroom and I read a story book to a second grade class. What fun!

              You’re right… all that we receive is perfect in ways we don’t always understand at the time. I’m excited about your studies, too. I think it is a really interesting field and you will have lots of opportunity to engage directly with people. The world will be better for it, my friend!

              I’m grateful for our connection as well…
              Blessings
              Michael

              Liked by 1 person

            • Michael~!
              I opened the link and started reading, and I felt a combination of tears and goosebumps. This is big, Michael, and while I paused in the middle of my moderate-sized “todo” list during my “break” from the intensity of my education, for a brief meditation, reflection, and subsequent WP checkin (Breathe): I’m looking forward to reading more in-depth when time permits! You know what?! Thank you, this article and your *reality* of having attended EPIC: MAKES MY HEART SING! I had no idea something like this even existed, aside from in my wildest dreams.

              Michael, I feel so fortunate to be doing one-on-one work already with my massage therapy practice, and to a certain extend my astrology practice. At present, I’m in a phase of expansion and re-organization. Meaning, I’ve had many changes and updates in my personal life, and I’m just starting to see some new structures form around the work I do, as a whole! I truly loved working with children as well; and we shall see!
              So much Love,
              Ka

              Liked by 1 person

            • Hi Ka,

              When I read that link, for some reason I knew it would strike a chord with you. I realize in hindsight what a gift that school was for me.

              Your one-on-one work sounds great, Ka. I love the idea of being in a phase of expansion. It is always exciting when inspiration grabs us by the heart and starts blowing us up like a balloon! I’m sure many magical experiences are lining up in your future, my friend…

              Thanks for your passion and your joy for living. It is contagious!
              Love,
              Michael

              Liked by 1 person

          • Hobbit in cartoon; every year at the public library it was the end of the reading program treat. Sitting on the hard cool floor for the movie was what I looked forward to most every summer of my childhood. Oh, once again, happy solidarity!

            Liked by 1 person

            • Yes, that was a classic…! I’m not sure what it was, but I’m thinking there are generations of children with fond memories of that one…

              Like

  3. Thanks for your fanciful musings on life, childhood and the path of love. 🙂 It seems our life’s work is to find our way back to the innocence of childhood where we lived in joyful oneness with life or as Linda said “how to remain a child with a boatload of experience?” How to consciously open back to the wonders and unity of life? Thankfully we have help. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes indeed, Brad. Without help, it would be a mountain too tall to climb I think… Here’s to letting go of the resistance, and settling into the freedom of feeling how we feel… 🙂

      Peace
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

  4. “I’m still recovering from this world I fell into, the one that made the first impression, where there wasn’t quite enough of something that everybody needed. Transforming that world became the only worthy purpose of my life—not transforming the world exactly, so much as my erroneous conclusions about what it was, and is.” This! This has been my only path for my whole life, but consciously for thirty years. It still brings tears to my heart and soul. What have I fallen into, and why, and how do I get out? No you are not alone, and yes, the door is finding us, one moment at a time. I often wish it would get a move on. And then I get present and remember I’m already here.
    Alison

    Liked by 6 people

    • Hi Alison,

      I’m glad to be walking this road beside you, whittling life down to what matters, and finding it opens out through a singularity into everything. I have those tears handy as well. Sometimes when I sense the whole of it, they just wash over me… It is really a lovely feeling, to be ambushed by your own nature… 🙂

      Love
      Michael

      Liked by 4 people

  5. This is quite charming and most engagingly written Michael; your candour and open-heartedness shine throughout. Coincidentally, I have two icons of Archangels Michael and Gabriel in my front room. The Michael icon is fairly large, and it weighs probably the best part of five kilos, it being painted in egg tempera on a tall and very thick piece of African hardwood. My Gabriel icon is smaller, depicting just the bust and head as is typical, but is rich in gold leaf and perfectly exquisite. These are perhaps odd decorative choices for a free-floating Buddhist like me.

    “To make our way, we have to trust what rings true.” This is a profound truth, and would be worthy of a full article in itself. Well said my friend.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Thank you, Hariod, for the thoughtfulness of your reply here. Trusting what rings true is kind of the beginning for me– the first step in accepting one’s place within the flow of reality, in admitting that what one feels has a relevance to something larger. I think you should write that one, actually, my friend… 🙂

      Interesting that you have the busts of angels nearby. I have no idea what they look like, so send me a picture! Ha! I’m not sure how odd these choices are, or even who these archangels may be. They’re sort of in the mix of what it means to be human, in a way that defies particular definitions or consistencies. We’ve had a Buddha in the garden and another on the bookshelf in the bedroom for as long as I can remember. My wife used to manage a retail store nearby, and for a while sold Buddhist sculptures from/for a nearby monastery.

      I’d say we should swap, perhaps, but I kind of like it this way– when friends are care-taking one another’s hearts…

      Michael

      Liked by 2 people

      • I commissioned a replica of an early Twelfth Century Russian Archangel Gabriel icon, complete with all the distressing, and with the golden braids in the hair. Note the highly stylised facial features. Here is an image of the original:

        http://www.encyclopediaofukraine.com/picturedisplay.asp?linkpath=pic%5CI%5CC%5CIcon_Archangel%20Gabriel%20(Angel%20with%20Golden%20Hair)%20(12century).jpg&page=pages%5CI%5CC%5CIcon.htm&id=4807&pid=4737&tyt=Icon&key=Icon%2C+%D0%86%D0%BA%D0%BE%D0%BD%D0%B0%3B+Ikona%2C+%D0%86%D0%BA%D0%BE%D0%BD%D0%B0%3B+Ikona%2E+An+image+depicting+a+holy+personage+or+scene+in+the+stylized+Byzantine+manner+see

        My Archangel Michael icon was again a commission but is the artist’s interpretation of orthodox imagery more generally. Michael is depicted holding a staff and orb rather than the more militaristic style in which he carries a sword as Chief Commander of the Heavenly Hosts. I do not have an image I can send you unfortunately, but it is a wonderfully serene painting, and full of peace; hence it takes pride of place in my front room.

        Thank you for your lovely reply my friend.

        Hariod.

        Liked by 2 people

          • Got it to work, H, and was rewarded with a beautiful image. Thank you for sharing that.

            I like the sound of the image of a staff and orb, but I confess I like the sword, too. In some traditions a knife is present in ceremony, and symbolizes cutting through difficulty, and it is in that sense that I like the image of the sword. I can never imagine a difficulty great enough to truly question that sword’s authority… Ha!

            Michael

            Liked by 1 person

  6. I can fall into this boy’s life, like I fell into “my” own life; perhaps that is how it happens —- from open, beautiful seeing into the moments contained in our experiences in time, we fall into the caramel cake batter wanting to experience the sweet and salt, full on in full body. We can drown in such a thickness, until we find the ropes you so profoundly name, the not aloneness, the deservingness and the door.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I love this vision, Marga… of falling into the delicious beauty of it… finding ourselves battered, smothered and covered… desiring a return to the beginning… The way you write of those profound ropes– it leaps off the page as if you have named a new holy trinity. I love it! The Not Aloneness, the Deservingness, and the Door. It feels like being removed bodily from the premises, for reasons not altogether clear, but in the company of the finest friends! You just kind of think… yeah… I’ll just ride this out… I’m laughing at this feeling you’ve engendered!

      Diving back into the mix!
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Soulfully written Michael… As if you and he are truly one… Looking back on grand experience and now walking proudly imprinting your loving presence in the world that just is here to enjoy… Thanks for sharing, Barbara x

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Barbara! I love the thought of the two being one… of the me then and the me now being alive in one another, along with so many others who live in the spaces we hold… We’re all joining up inside, learning what it really means to love oneself… to see your love reach the boundary, and just keep going… 🙂

      I’m enjoying reading about your travels. Enjoy!
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you very much, Noelle. Our memories are littered with these snapshots of love, aren’t they. These moments of realization. I don’t think it’s the image, but the underlying feeling that I think we retain above all else. We’re all something we’ll never explain… becoming… unfurling, enfolding, remembering…

      Peace
      Michael

      Liked by 2 people

  8. I’m woozy with the mesmerizing quality of this. And equally remarkable is the concise way you were able to pull the snapshot experiences and speak them into the larger picture. Well done. Gives me hope that I too may make sense of my own experiences which were so magical – are so magical – and so should totally speak into my experience now in profound ways. I am so looking forward to reading more here; thanks for a refreshing space and reminders of HIM.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Amy,

      Thank you for the kind words you’ve shared here. I am new to your writing, but have a hunch already that you will be able to express those moments of beauty inside of yourself quite handily when the time comes. We have a pretty capable Guide, after all, to help along the way…

      Peace
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I really enjoyed reading this post, Michael. It affirms to me that our inner children are very much alive within us – wise, souful, trusting, creative beings who have much to share if we’ll only listen. I love that you’ve connected with the angels from a young age…I remember talking about past lives/next lives when I was a small child but at some point I stopped. I remember that at the time, it felt like common knowledge! Now I am rediscovering that essence that has always been me, and (as you say) knowing I’m not alone in my experience – and that we are all deserving of the love and unity our soul knows.

    I hope you’ve been having a wonderful summer! And thank you Ka for initiating this challenge! Aleya

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Aleya,

      I think it’s wonderful you remember speaking of other times and places as a child. It is fascinating really, to contemplate the child’s mind– the arrival in a place without precedent, and the inner sensation that one didn’t simply appear from nothing. The child has the trust in hidden continuities that we lose as we grow up… Then work hard to recover, brushing aside the undergrowth of the mind…

      I’m having a nice summer– thank you– and I hope you are, too! Thank you for dropping by again…
      Peace
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

  10. All this sounds(ed) very familiar … we grew up in the same timespace, with similar interests. Breznjev, Hinault and Basic are now long gone, but history repeats itself, only the names have changed to Putin, Python … but who is this Froome? 🙂

    Like

    • Ha! I know it, Bert. The cycles of time– the change that remains the same. The funny thing for me is when I was a child– maybe it is like this for everyone– those first encounters with the world are so rich and compelling. I can’t compare Putin to Breznjev and the Cold War, or Hinault to Froome! But it is just my own distorted vision… certain values attached to one moment in time and not another… I am reminded by your words none of these times are special or more meaningful than the others… just a continuing re-enactment of our human needs and questions…

      Peace
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

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