An anonymous poet once said that “life is measured not by the number of breaths that we take but by the moments that take our breath away.” I want my life so filled with those moments that I can’t breathe, because I believe the experience of those moments are just as necessary as the vitality of air is. In June of 2009, I had one such moment when I took a leap across the pond of the North Atlantic and found myself in Northern Ireland. There were many entertaining and breath-taking activities that I partook of that included sight-seeing at the Giant’s Causeway- which was formed from volcanic activity of ancient times- and swimming in wet suits in the frigid Northern Sea- while body surfing and kayaking to reckless abandonment- and jogging along the White Park Beach- being subject to such a beauty that it would have inspired the most non-environmental business man in the world to write several sonnets- and, of course, climbing up the slope of Slemish- the highest peak in Northern Ireland.
Out of all of those activities, I can honestly say that my climb up Slemish struck in my memories as being the greatest thing I did while in Northern Ireland. Now my climb wasn’t easy because of all of the obstacles that I had to go through just to reach the top. There must have been 50,000 boulders that stood in between me and the top, and the only way I was going to get there was to focus in on the nearest one and get past that. That still left 49,999 rocks left to climb over, but at least I was closer to the top than I was before. I had to climb over rocks while enduring an attack from a fearsome beast. The midgee, which is a nat-like-creature on steroids, is very partial to American flesh. I left part of myself in Northern Ireland- in the midgee’s belly.
And then the physical exertion was an obstacle in and of itself. As much as I love to hike, I can never stay in shape- unless you call being round as “staying in shape.” A little less than halfway up the slope, I took a little break to see how far I had come- and to catch my breath. As I looked back, I noticed a little old Irish man with a cane trudging on up to where I was. An old man beat me up this mountain- hell no. I started to high tail it from then on. Turns out that the man wasn’t that old- in Ireland, one starts getting wrinkles at age 14- and it was a professional mountain stick he was using, not a cane. But this error of mine kicked me into gear and I thought of all the advantages this work out was going to give me. I was burning calories, which meant I could eat again soon, and working out is a stress reliever, just as eating sweets is to some people. Even before the hike up this mountain I had thought that this climb was going to be worth it, and during the hike I had thought this climb had better be worth it.
When I got to the top and could see horizon on all sides, the view overwhelmed me. I was at such a height that I could see all six counties including Scotland from across the English Channel. That was the closest I will ever come to being on top of the world.
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