To take another step

by Irie Smith

Fresh, dark soil slaps my boots as if to tell me “Welcome to the free world."
I take another step
The Earth tilts toward the heavens
And bribes me with promises of dreamlike views
My feet follow the beat of my hearts drum
Fast and breathless
Reminding me how much I like the taste of air
I trek further
The trees stir beside me
Dancing with pressures from high winds
Winds which remind me just how human I am
Every gust hitting my chest
And threatening to knock me down
I keep walking
Searching the forest for anything to distract my mind
Set me at ease
And assure me that I will make it to the top
A distraction from aching legs and tired lungs
I forget to see beauty in the journey up because all I can think about is the end result
I hike on
My head pounds convincing me to stay hydrated
But I won’t stop
The destination awaits and I fear if I take a break,
I won’t stand up again
I move forward
Bruises form on my hips beneath the unwieldy pack I carry
Bruises made of tents and sleeping bags and all the buttons from all the trips I’ve gained from my journeys
The pain won’t last
And the memories that will be locked away and kept forever will not be of my achy muscles and loss of breath
I know one memory will stand out from the rest
The feeling of accomplishment when I keep going despite the urge to give up
And so
I take another step

Whistler Outdoor Endurance & Survival Writing Contest
Judges comments:

We’ve all been here, on this mountain where “The Earth tilts toward the heavens“ , willing our feet to take another step. In this poem, the author shares an almost primal expression of endurance - that of climbing a mountain and making it to the top. We are invited into their experience where we sense the trees stirring, feel the beat of their heart, and the pain of bruises from a heavy pack. And as prevailing and ageless as this event might be in our lives, this poem is made more earnest with the image of that pack and “all the buttons from all the trips.” An authentic declaration of endurance and its  prize -  “The feeling of accomplishment”.

Judges: Jude Goodwin & Mary MacDonald, April 2018