There’s an amount of clutter that comes with everyday life. I don’t mean anything physical, anything that takes up space in your garage. Just mental clutter. Just trash that accumulates unnoticed in the darker corners of your mind that makes everything work one tick slower, one creak louder, one bit worse. I don’t know if it’s a bad thing — it’s just how the world operates, one more calling card of this day and age.
But I do know that I don’t make it better. I like to hurry, like to do, like to be going whenever possible. I feel that if I’m not moving, I’m wasting time — that if I’m not accomplishing, I’m squandering whatever limited time I have on the face of this Earth.
And part of this drive, part of this constant push to keep doing, is that certain tasks become routine, become things I brush past, things I ignore. And while I try to catch myself when I do it, sometimes I find at the end of a day that I’ve spent the time I try so hard to use, rather than just have, on things that I can barely remember and barely took note of.
For the past four summers, I worked a job that involved taking hundreds of people each month up Mount Monadnock in New Hampshire, one of the most summited mountains in the world. I’d guide groups of up to forty up the 2,000 foot, 8 mile, class-three climb to the summit, still barren from the fires set in 1820 to scare off wolves. Our groups — always larger than I’d like, always less experienced than I’d hope — would each head up the exact same trails, stopping at the exact same points, and usually having the exact same talks. I’d point out the holes where dynamite was drilled into the mountain to blow it apart, the newest landslides and downed trees, the three United States Geological Survey markers at the top, each claiming to mark a separate point as the single highest on the mountain. And, each and every trip, I’d tell the group about how, on clear days, you could see straight out to Boston.
I was getting paid to hike, and I was sick of it.
I hadn’t always hated doing the mountain — back when I began my job, I would love to run the hike, seeing what new novelties I could find up and down the same few trails. But as time went on, things started to change. I would whinge to coworkers about how the hike had become this monolithicthing, this massive hassle that I had to get out of the way so I could do the other pieces of my job. It had become something to move past, something Ihad to do. It had become clutter.
Then came a point this summer where I was forced to take a hiatus from the hike, missing the final two ascents of the season. And, while I never imagined it would happen, I started to miss my mountain.
I had a free day between the end of my job and the day I was due back home in Syracuse, New York, and so I headed out one final time to Monadnock’s base. I headed up the same trail as always, taking the same breaks in the same places and mulling over the same things in my head. I poked at the drill holes in the rock, examined downed trees and landslides, and picked my favorite marker at the summit to eat my dinner on top of.
It was really a beautiful day for it. A light wind, low humidity, and a sky clear enough you could see almost all the way out to Boston.
And it was really a beautiful thing that happened on my hike that day. Somehow, I had learned to love the hike once again. Somehow, the monolith had been blown apart, the have to swapped out with a get to.
Somehow, this was my mountain again.
And, even if just for a moment, there was just a little less clutter in this world of ours.