Thursday, July 19, 2007

Mount Chocorua

Yesterday, I climbed Mount Chocorua, which is located in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The experience was one of profound exhilaration and insight, that left me breathless (literally).

I started off the hike with a group of six people, who were a mixture of staff, as well as guests of The World Fellowship Center where I am working for the summer as a Youth Fellowship Coordinator. The group was a mixture of young and old, experienced and inexperienced, who all shared a love of the great outdoors, and were excited about a day spent in nature.

Mount Chocorua is visible from the main lodge on the grounds of World Fellowship, so is an inescapable part of the landscape. Whenever one walks across the lawn, one can see the mountain capped in white, and dressed in nature's greenery, rising admidst the clouds. The power and majesty of the mountain creates an ominous presence that permeates the atmosphere. I now understand why legends about mountains abound, with magical tales, and myths that illustrate how they came into being, and how these tales have become an intergral part of regional folklore the world over.

The legend of Mount Chocorua is a story of revenge, and tragically ends with an Indian named Chocorua leaping to his death after being pursued up the mountain, and shot by white men after it is believed he avenged the accidental poisoning of his son, by killing a white family. I won't bother going into the legend of the curse that was put on the region, by Chocorua. Needless to say, I kept the details of the legend in mind as I made my climb.

As I began my journey, I thought of the legend of Chocorua and the Native Americans who originally populated New Hampshire. I walked along the path deep in thought, Sage and Native Medicine ( courtesy of my sister friend Leslie's, Black Cherokee Cirlce) in hand. The hike for me proved to be a meditative one. As others rushed along the trail, as if in a race to reach the top in record time, I and a few other, older and slower, and therefore more reflective in nature, took in the beauty of our surroundings, that were a mixture of Birch and Evergreen trees, streams and brooks. I stopped on many occassion during our acesnt; one because I frequently found myself out of breath, and also, simply to listen to the hush of the forest. I took my time, sat on huge rocks and underneath mammoth trees, breathed deeply and tarried on.

The climb took about three hours, and took all the resolve I had in me to complete. As we neared the top, the trees became thinner and shorter, and the sky gradually became visible. As the summit showed itself in the bright clear sky, it seemed as if we would never reach it. The climb seemed to go on and on, and the summit farther and farther away no matter how close our trek leader said we were getting to the top. In order to motiviate myself, I repeated one of my favorite scriptures over and over again: "The race is not given to the swift or the strong, but to those who endureth until the end." I used the words as a reminder, as I and a few others brought up the rear, that this journey was not about how fast I could make it up the mountain, so I climbed on, took my time and stopped when I felt it was necessary.

As I reached the final landing before the summit, I turned and looked behind me to see what lay before me and beneath me. I was overcome with emotion and began to weep. One, because I am always awestruck at the wonder and majesty of God's creation, and also how much the White Mountains of New Hampshire remind me of the mountains of Sierra Leone. I have longed to go back to Sierra Leone to see my father and my many relative who live there, as well as to bask in the beauty and warmth of the African sun, eat my fill of Cassava Leaves, and swim in the ocean. I had to take my final break and allow all the emotions that were swirling in my chest, to rise to the surface. I wiped the tears that streamed down my face; tears that represented joy, love, loss, journeys, family, home, distance, war and brutality, and made my final ascent to the top.