Circulation

Daved liked company when climbing, but today he was alone. He’d planned the ascent as a two-day trip, though was prepared for four days in case of nasty weather; it could easily turn. He’d heard of someone going up and down in a day, but they must have been either a superhero or a liar. It was 9,000 feet of mountain, almost three kilometres up!

Mt. Alba stood at the near end of the Valley as a sentinel over Lucerne Village. 100 km away – at the far end of the Valley – was its darker twin Mt. Negra, which wasn’t visible from the Village because of a bend in the Valley. Daved wondered if it would be visible from Mt. Alba’s summit.

It was a tougher climb than expected. Clear cut patches had “grown back” as dense bush. They’d be okay in another 200 years, but calling this “sustainable” – are you kidding? Thank God for game tracks.

The rock was steady going with some pits of scree. Daved picked through them methodically. The snow near the summit made higher sections easier to navigate, and had a magnificent crunching sound. As Daved neared the top, he heard a miss-timed shuffling-scrunching. Was it his footsteps, echoing high above? It continued for too long afterwards though. He’d been pleased to see evidence of wildlife earlier, but now was much less so. He climbed the final section and saw the beast ahead. It looked like a man walking in circles. Daved rubbed his eyes. What on earth was he doing?

The man didn’t look at Daved or say hello or stop. He wore vintage climbing gear, a beaver fur cap, and boots that were clearly not fit for this purpose. He seemed to have walked out of – or should we say “be walking around in” – the 1920’s.

“Hello there!” Daved called out.

The man slowed momentarily, looked across at him and squinted. He gave a friendly wave, but otherwise continued as before, which Daved found annoying. He had braved a 9,000 ft mountain alone and met a fellow climber at the top. They should be sharing hearty slaps on the back, and whisky from their mickeys; but the guy had virtually ignored him.

Fortunately Daved was a reasonable fellow. He thought, maybe this guy has come here for solitude; he’s left the crazy world below to clear his head, and doesn’t want company. Maybe he’s practising walking meditation, or just keeping warm. But I have to engage him somehow; it is only good manners.

When Daved approached the man’s face lit up. He was about sixty, with a bushy grey moustache and piercing blue eyes. He seemed very friendly, which didn’t square with his ambivalence before. But he didn’t stop walking, so if Daved wished to converse, he had no option but to join him.

“So nice of you to come up, Sir,” said the man. “It’s been a while since I’ve had a visitor. What brings you to these parts? And will you be staying here long?”

“It’s always been there, right before my eyes,” said Daved, feeling at ease immediately with this possibly crazy guy. “But I’d never thought of climbing it before. I’m not sure why. It seemed more a backdrop than something real.”

“Few people notice what is square before them,” said the man. “But the day comes when they do.”

“What brought you up here?” said Daved. It was a deliberately broad question. He wasn’t sure whether to mention his antique climbing gear, and his walking in circles.

“I used to live a linear life,” said the man. “Always going from here to there, from there to somewhere else, and from somewhere else to who knows where? Climbing this mountain was no different. I was fiercely competitive when young, and the first time I climbed, I made it up and down in a day.” Daved’s face changed; was this the man he had heard about? He continued, “But then I realized how pointless that was. Why rush to the grave? We’re all going there soon enough, so why not take our time till then – taste the water, smell the forest, feel the rock, crunch the snow? So now I take my time. The world is different when you pay attention. It is yours.”

The ice was broken; Daved couldn’t help asking, “But why are you walking in circles?”

“Why are we walking in circles?” said the man. “You’re walking with me.”

“Ok, why are we walking in circles?”

“Do you know the meaning of the circle?” said the man.

“Of course,” said Daved, feeling insulted. “Who doesn’t? It symbolizes natural cycles; it means wholeness and completeness.”

“Yes it does. And that’s why we’re walking in circles. We’re making the world.”

“What do you mean, ‘making the world’?”

The man stopped suddenly. Daved did too. The man said, “Ok, do you want to try walking the other way? See what happens?” Daved nodded and they reversed their direction.

At the far end of the Valley – 100 km away – Daved saw the dark top of Mt. Negra glow orange, about to burst. He saw thunderclouds building along the Valley, filled with black rain. Snow slid to the edge of the icecap, about to rush down as an avalanche. Lightning caused a tree to ignite, its flames spreading to others. A vast landslide fell into the river, causing it to dam, building up a huge lake, ready to burst. A light rumble signalled earthquakes brewing.

“Stop!” shouted Daved. “What’s going on?”

“My friend, you have a choice with every step you take. You can either make, or unmake, the world. Which way shall we walk now?”

“The other way!” Daved shouted.

The man turned around and Daved joined him. They had plenty to talk about. He always liked company when walking.

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