Have you ever made it to the top of the mountain? Maybe it’s the metaphorical top of the mountain: that goal you’ve worked towards for a while and finally achieved. Or maybe it’s the literal top of the mountain: the hard climb that finally rewards you with a view for miles. Views from the top are great, but it also serves us well to regard the view from midway.
The first time I climbed an actual mountain was in New Hampshire. We visited Mt. Monadnock, rising 3,165 feet above sea level. I was a teenager, but remember the day like yesterday–in part because it was a slog up that hill. My parents enjoyed reminding me for years that I complained for most of the climb. But the view from the top was absolutely stunning! Fall colors everywhere and views for miles.
Fast forward a few dozen years and I’ve traded my east coast cred for some southwest attitude. We Coloradans scoff at 3,000-odd feet. I live at 5,900 feet above sea level and our hikes up mountains typically start in the 8,000 and above range. But climbing a hill is still climbing a hill, whether you start at sea level or a mile plus up.
A few weekends ago, my family had the pleasure of joining friends at their mountain home. Saturday afternoon was glorious with blue skies, sunshine, and crisp air. The aspens were still holding tightly to a few deep gold leaves, reluctant to give them over to the incoming winter winds. We spotted a turn out that we believed was the trailhead to a trail leading back to their house. The trail skirted up the side of Beaver Mountain in the Rio Grande National Forest, elevation10,000 feet, give or take.
We started out on the trail, eager to see where it led us. I am not a particularly adventurous person, as much as I might sound like I know what I’m doing climbing mountains. We didn’t exactly know where we were going, but our friends had a general sense that we were heading in the right direction, and if nothing else we could always turn around and follow the trail back down the mountain.
The initially very steep ascent leveled off slightly, revealing a view of rolling ridge lines. “Just one more ridge” became our battle cry, as it was a guessing game as to exactly where the house was, or what path would lead us there. We hiked steep ascents, rolling hills, free range cattle pasture areas, and a burn-scar area from a decades old forest fire. Staying upright meant keeping eyes glued to the ground, as a misstep could lead to a turned ankle on a rock, tripping over a log, or stepping in a cow pie. Not sure which of those would be worse!
Eventually, we hit a high meadow leading to a down slope. Past the next ridge, we could just begin to make out houses, letting us know the end was in sight. Perhaps free from worry that we would be stuck on the mountain forever, I realized I had been looking down almost the entire hike. I stopped in the meadow to look up and around, and my breath was taken away. The highest peaks behind us–hidden as we hiked through the forest–were snow covered, glinting in the sun and framed by Colorado’s patented bluebird sky. The lower hills in front of us were velvety blankets of firs with occasional gold pops of aspens. Even the debris field of the fire was a lovely criss-cross of weathered silver trunks scattered along the hillside.
We weren’t done with our hike. In fact there were still some challenging bits: climbing over downed trees, hopping across a river, and side stepping some muddy patches as we entered a swampy area. But that moment midway–looking up to see the great peaks and rolling hills in the distance–that is what made the whole hike for me. (Ok, yes, the sandwich and shower back at the house were a nice reward, too.)
Do you stop midway on life’s journeys? Are you aware of what it feels like to be in the middle-space of a big goal in your personal or work life? So often, we are fixed solidly on the steps in front of us and the idea of the end point–as I was, watching my feet and thinking about whether or not we’d ever make it back to the house. There’s good reason to focus on each step you take and to prepare yourself for the next step. But there can be joy in the view from midway, if we stop to appreciate it.
As we get ready to enter the holidays and close out 2021, I encourage you to take a look at the view from midway. Close your eyes and reflect on where this year started for you, where it has taken you, and where you are right now. Yes, maybe there are more ridge lines ahead of you to ascend to hit some of your goals, but I bet you’ve crossed some goals off your list and made beautiful progress on others. Can you appreciate where you are, right now? Can you simultaneously create energy towards an unclaimed goal while holding and honoring the progress you’ve already made? In my book, Mindful Mondays, I encourage readers to find daily ways to be present moment focused. The view from midway is one such moment.
Need more support with this? Keep reading: I have an offering just for you this December. It starts with a free “Welcome Winter” meditation and conversation, taking place on my FaceBook page on Thursday, December 2, 2021, at 10am mountain time (noon eastern). Then we’ll gear up for my special workshop, A View From Midway: Reflection, Gratitude, and Planning on Monday, December 19, at 5 pm mountain time (that’s 7pm eastern). I’ll be your guide as we reflect on the year and our goals, express gratitude for where we are right now, and look to next year with mindful intention. I’ll be sharing more about these offerings in the next few weeks, so stay tuned! I’ll also be sharing a great new tool, my Mindful Mondays Journal, as we approach the end of the year!