The View from Up There
When I was in high school, I started hiking the mountain behind my house. It’s not a very big mountain, but it towers over Cap-Haitien. Climb it up high enough, past farmers descending with their produce stacked on donkeys’ backs, and the bustle and grind of the city below gives way to a wide-sweep view of the bay and the blue oblivion of the Caribbean Sea. The air smells sharp and clean, trade winds teasing the scent of lemons out of the grass.
As a teenager, I climbed the mountain mostly to escape the emotional turbulence of adolescence. When life got difficult to process, a day spent roaming in the company of friends was a great salve. Climbing the mountain lent life a certain amount of perspective — we people were just little ants after all, shuttling about our daily business. The city almost looked friendly from up there, the misery muted by distance, dilapidated houses shining cheerfully under the sun. From the hillside, I had almost the same perspective as the airplanes gliding silently in and out of the valley, the planes which would one day would carry me beyond the sea to freedom.
I have found myself yearning increasingly over the last few years for the wide-angle view. It’s easy to lose yourself in the 20’s, after the idealism and promise of higher education fade, and the grind of early working life sets in. It’s easy to lose your grip on purpose, on a sense of this is the reason I exist. It’s easy to believe that God has forgotten, that your dreams never really mattered to anyone but you. It is easy to forget the moments as a child when the awful weight of glory of being alive sliced you so cleanly and so suddenly that you opened your mouth on your bed in the night and tried to cry but there was no sound.
But there is always something there to awaken me — the rush of recognition at the end of a great story, when the pieces finally come together, the sound of music I haven’t heard in years, the familiar shiver of the Holy Spirit after several weeks’ unnoticed absence. One familiar word in my ears and I am awake, smelling the lemon-scented air, observing the wide sweep of the bay, believing that I will make it up this mountain and that this journey will finally make sense when I see the view from up there.