Choosing the Mountain

Happy Autumn or Spring!


We’re having a delightful fall day here with warmth, sunshine, and the full possibilities that harvest season brings.  Sitting here in my favourite chair sipping on mint tea taken from our deck garden boxes, roasting sweet potatoes and apples for soup, and enjoying a blueberry muffin as a post workout snack.  Training is going well and I seem to be harvesting strength and endurance gains from the work planted thus far.  All feels right on such a lovely day!


It’s been a big few days with three presentations in four days, paying the contractor for the renovation work, and shipping off my next payment installment to Peak Freaks for my Everest expedition.  Once again, I feel like I’m on a diving board hoping that having taken the step into the abyss that there will be water to catch me softly at the end of the drop.


I’m pretty confident there is, because despite the challenges of choosing the enormous task of climbing Everest once again, I have the experience of the first attempt to both learn from and trust.  There was water last time.


As I was speaking to the Cancer Survivor Reception at the Placentia Relay for Life over this past weekend, I was struck by the word, “choice.”  I am choosing this path.  I am choosing to climb and to undertake the risk and suffering that that entails.  One survivor spoke at the reception saying, “I would have never chosen cancer but I am grateful for the lessons and life change it brought to me.”  There seems to be greater ease in accepting learning that comes from challenges we choose rather than those that are thrust upon us by circumstance, illness, or accident.  In speaking with several cancer survivors of late, I was moved by their grace in embracing what had been dealt to them.


A few weeks back I spoke at the Prostate Canada Cancer Network National Conference.  This group was the beneficiary of my fundraising efforts with my Elbrus climb and I truly wished my dad could have been there that night to be surrounded by such a strong community of supporters.  Thanks again to all who contributed to the PCCN in honour of “Elbrus–Climbing for my Dad.”  So many people came up afterward and wished my dad well–I wanted to bottle up all that warmth and care and send it to my dad in Edmonton.  As I say often, when we take on our own Everests, we have no idea of where the path will lead.


At the PCCN conference, I was seated with the conference chair and his wife.  She began the dinner by quizzing me as to where I had grown up, what school I had gone to, and finally for my longer name.  A smile came over her face about the same time I recognized her.  “Mrs Kennedy!” I exclaimed.  “What are you doing here?”


Mrs. Kennedy was my Grade Six teacher who I just adorned.  She taught me Language Arts and French during my Smurf collecting phase and through a time of rapid physical and emotional growth.  What a thrill to see her as I am so often filled with such gratitude for those who taught me during the long course of my education.  At one point, I snuck away to the box of books I brought to sell that evening and fished out a copy.  I wrote a short message thanking Donna (oh how hard it is for me to call her that) and presented it to her.  It was a moment I had dreamed of since having my book come out–to present a copy to one of the many teachers who taught me to write.  Almost every time I looked at Mrs. Kennedy during the presentation she was dabbing at her eyes and then it took everything in my power to contain the emotion that welled up in me seeing her well up.  It was an extra special evening because of her presence. 


The same week I also dropped by the Health Sciences Centre to visit a student of mine.  He is about half way through an arduous chemotherapy program and he’d expressed interest in reading my book.  Since it can sometimes be hard to find in bookstores these days, I offered to drop one off.  We talked a long time about his cancer and how he’s making his way through all of the emotions and challenges of fighting for his life.  I shared stories of tough times on some of the mountains I climbed knowing that nothing I have faced on a mountain comes close to his journey.  I met his mom during the same visit and was once again reminded how widely cancer throws its net and leaves no one uncaught.  I was thrilled to hear this week that a midway CAT scan was showing that the treatment appears to be working for him and I will continue to hold him and his family in my thoughts and prayers.


So, over these past weeks I have been radically reminded over and over again of the tenuous and precious nature of my/our existence and how lives, journeys, and families can change in mere moments or over shifting seasons.  I continue to try to be open to all the lessons that come to me for having chosen this path as well as being open to the lessons I haven’t chosen.


Take care and have a good week,




PS…Thanks for spreading the word about the Oct. 8th 7:30 launch of Mountains of Learning at the INCO Theatre at MUN.

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