The forecast looked grim late in December – temps in single digits, negative wind chills – when I finally had a minute to breathe and think about this month’s climb.
The students were gone, the campus quiet.
It was the day after Christmas, and the fam was readying to scatter to their various environs after a sweet couple of days together doing what we like to do best – play some hockey, work out, eat, and make messes, I mean, memories.
So after a furious sprint of packing, cleaning, and minor Jeep maintenance, the son-in-law, his brother E, and I headed out to Cardigan to try not to die.
I knew the road to the trailhead lot would be closed for the winter, which meant an extra mile in and out each way, but we had a shovel with us and were able to carve out a parking space at the gate with a few hardy others taking advantage of the sunshine and free beauty.
Although it had only stopped precipitating the day before, a kind soul had risen early and packed down a fabulous path all the way up to the icy slabs at the summit. With boots and Microspikes, it was just a matter of putting one cold foot in the front of the other, up and up and up into the frozen marvel of this agreeable mountain.
Hiking with long-legged twenty-somethings when one is, ahem, older than that took some perseverance; they let me lead, and I felt at times driven along by their strength and enthusiasm. The son-in-law was even carrying a sled, with which he hoped to descend at a quicker pace than I could manage, yet still the two of them had to stop and wait for me to pretend to take pictures so I could catch my icy breath.
I thought about how the snow covered the ragged places on the trail, how it smoothed the rocks and roots and ruts under a desert of white that made it both easier and more difficult to traverse. Boots could skim over silent brooks or break though hidden crusts in equal proportion. Because you just didn’t know what was underneath, what was coming, how to exactly prepare.
I thought about how hope is like that, sometimes heavier to carry than even grief.
The weight of it.
Wondering when it will break, open, release.
The apostle Paul knew about hope, the unfulfilled wantingwaiting ache of it.
He told us we could glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)
Hope does not disappoint.
Though I know this to be true, have proven its verity many times over, it still arrests me, gives me pause.
We hope because we know there is something up ahead, something better, something worth waiting for, persevering for, suffering for.
Something that will make the desert places, the sharp scales where our feet slip and buckle and crack, worth the neverknowingwhen but knowing just the same.
We hope because we know this is not the end of the story.
Heartache and injustices and hardship can quash our spirit or soften our hearts, but the choice is up to us.
God-love feeds us on a continual diet of hope.
I want to savor its sweetness, believe in its assurance, wait on its promise.
We are all hoping for something.
Elsewhere Paul writes hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. (Romans 8:24a, 25)
When we reach the frozen granite at treeline, I beg the young ones to forge ahead, and they storm the summit first, wait there for me.
It’s too windy and cold to linger.
I’m tired and ready to be done, but the walking seems easier on the way down.
A hot shower awaits at home, and there are new adventures to plan, new hope chasing on the heels of hard.
I’m glad I had the chance to climb Cardigan in December.
I think of that passage in Isaiah, and laugh thinking of those crazy, sturdy boys.
Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:28-31)
Soar. Run. Hope.