We’ve been walking for 43 days and that has seen us climbing mountains, cutting through tussock grass, tip-toeing through rivers and running down hills encouraged by the sighting of a hut in the distance and the promise of getting a bottom bunk. And sometimes, when I’m missing my coffee and the feeling of dry feet whilst in the knowledge that today it’s going to be yet another 10 hour day, I ask myself “why?”
The question gets not so much answered, but pushed aside when we venture out onto a rocky ledge and see the view, which like Caspar David Friedrich’s ‘Wanderer above the sea of fog’ is just… well… Sublime. It makes you feel small, this walking thing that we are venturing outside to do day after day. Drawing a line through a landscape with our steps and walking poles doesn’t so much bring me closer to that sublime, but it does emphasise the smallness I feel. Not the smallness I feel when bathing in the cold glacial rivers (!), but the smallness of “I am small and the world is big”. And that is well, a little overwhelming (especially when that sits in my mind with another approaching mountain ascent just around the corner.)
But then, like the fog finally lifting from the three tips of Mount Cook so that the busload of tourists can all raise their iPads in unison, I too have a moment of clarity: of what it feels like to be great. Yes gather round my friends and let me tell you a tale of a man and a woman – Alex and Harriet.
It begins in the wee hours of the day when the sun has not yet graced us with its presence. Alex rises from his bunk, boils some water, brews some tea and, with a gentle nudge, wakes Harriet from her slumber. Harriet takes this humble offering of tea and sips it, savouring the moment and, to her, Alex is great and Alex feels great, and I think wow – that’s great.
On my next venture I too will take a wee tea leaf from Alex’s book of greatness, and as I arrive at the summit that makes me feel small because of all its big sublimeness – I will remember that it is the little things that make me feel great, and the great things that make me feel small.