Our favorite route starts with a short walk over some mildly uphill terrain, before we reach the bottom of a mile-high saddle in the mountain. Then it's maybe an hour of serious rock scrambling, before we reach the pinnacle to settle atop our favorite overhang in the sun, for a picnic lunch.
There are no trails to follow up the saddle. In fact, as many times as I've climbed it, I don't believe I've ever taken the same route twice. There are just too many protruding rocks, loose rocks, crevices to squeeze through, obstacles to get around, steep rocks to haul yourself over, and flat spots to crawl under--and too many enticing overhangs and caves that beckon to be explored.
Each new climb brings new perspectives--each step, even--and each new perspective promises a better route, so that Balthazar and I often find ourselves standing side-by-side analyzing our next move towards the top.
"This way looks good," he'll say.
"I like this way better," I'll say. Then he'll climb a boulder and I'll skirt around it, or I'll climb a boulder and he'll skirt around it, and we'll meet up on the other side.
Mountains have always been obvious metaphors for life.
The first time that The Coop embarked on this fabulous adventure, I worried for the kids. Everywhere up this mile high saddle is the potential to slip and scrape a knee; to twist an ankle; to really get hurt.
"Please be careful," I said, over and over, to them, that first time. And I insisted they stay within mere feet of me all the way up--so I could catch them, if they fell; advise them of the best routes; prohibit them from attempting anything too dangerous.
Mother knows best.
But now that the hike has become more familiar to us, now that I've seen how well they handle themselves on the rocks, now that I've heard the thrill in their shouts from across the mountain--Mom, look at me way over here; Mom, this way is really cool; Mom, look, I'm up here, look how high I climbed--I've learned to let them be free on the mountain, to find their own paths, their own nooks.
I was heartbroken when Sunshine quit ballet, last June. I was sure she was making a mistake.
"You let her quit?" several people gasped, implying that I shouldn't have.
Honestly, I wouldn't have--if I thought that it was up to me. But, in my heart and in my head, I knew the decision had to be hers. She had to want it a hundred times more than I wanted it for her, if she was to ever to truly call herself a ballerina. If she was ever to be happy.
"I traded ballet for better grades and a social life," she says, today, completely satisfied with her decision, completely content with her life.
Hollywood, of course, wants to be an actor--I struggle with this, knowing that the life of an actor is not an easy one. I imagine all of the rejection he'll come up against before he ever makes it, and how this will break his heart over and over again. And he doesn't even like ramen noodles, so what will he eat?
But just like it became obvious to me that ballet wasn't in Sunshine's blood, I can't deny the stars in Hollywood's eyes, the passion in soul, the drama in his future.
Please be careful, I want to say. I see a safer route, I want to tell him. Instead, I drive him to acting classes, meet with agents, prep him for auditions.
But then would he ever shout out at me again from across the mountain?
Mom, look at me!