I can feel him in the distance looking down on us. The Deacon of this mountain is unimpressed with our pace and route. Yet this goat still watches as one worn little setter leads us up a chute 1,500 feet below the pulpit he’s chosen.
Every now and then I glance skyward to see if the sermon continues. But the setter seems immune to the preaching. Her feet are bloody and sore but she has no interest in changing course. Occasionally she looks back and beckons us to follow. The lab and I don’t argue with her rationale, only her methods.
There’s a pair of falcons working the ridge above, the ushers for this morning service. They dive in and out of the cuts ready to remove anyone who becomes restless of their scrutiny.
Halfway up a mountain is the best time for soul searching. There is yet to be any sense of accomplishment or euphoria and plenty of tempering self-doubt. When exertion nags your psyche and burns legs and lungs, the thoughts that appear are unvarnished.
I don’t want to be the King of the Mountain. I just want to be worthy of these wild places and the lessons they share with those willing to seek them out.
I love to be a part of this struggle. My heart pounding in my ears. It’s no rush or adrenaline, just an affirmation of fleeting opportunities.
The Deacon is done preaching and the ushers have followed him to another amphitheater.
As we reach the ridge above the pulpit the lab has no intention of squandering the sermon. The wind is at our back, and I see the slightest change of attitude in his posture and pace. We’ve been here so many times together. The setter catches scent and turns just in time to see birds jump from the ledge into the hellish abyss of fractured granite.
We are believers now. And we’re about to take up a collection.