Longing for a Distant Mountain I’ve always been a country boy; I’ve never had much use for cities. I’ve been all over the east and southern parts of the USA and liked some of it but I’ve always been just a Missouri country boy. I had never seen the Pacific Northwest but I thought it might be nice to see it if I ever got the chance. When we hatched the plan to go visit my best friend who lives in Washington state I saw my chance not only to see the land of Bigfoot and  mountains, but also my best friend. He and I had met online years ago and found eventually that we were like minded on most things. That might be bad or good but its true. He’s never called me his best friend or even his friend, but that’s ok, I know why he doesn’t and I understand. But that’s neither here nor there. One would think it a simple matter to fly from Missouri to Spokane Washington in this day and age, but it’s not so. Getting there required flying to Phoenix , changing planes and then on to Washington . I like flying, I didn’t like the crowds and the bustling around. It was late at night when we got there, way too late for two old broken down guys to be out fooling around. He was a long way from home and we were about 2500 miles. It was dark and nothing of the landscape was visible, it was just a long ride back to his place. That was ok, because we had known each other for years online but had never met spoken face to face. The landscape was forgotten for now; we just had fun being together. He’s a disabled Vietnam veteran and doesn’t get out much so he was eager to give us the grand tour, which we were eager to experience. The first day was nice enough but I was a little disappointed secretly because I had this mental picture of what I thought Washington should have looked like. But it was fun nevertheless because we were all together, my wife and I, and Kohler, the three musketeers or the three stooges, depending on ones perspective. It surprised me how much of the state was barren windswept desert. It also surprised me how many apple orchards could be successfully grown there. One can drive in what looks like a desert all day and see little apple orchards tucked here and there; it wasn’t hard to see why Washington is the apple capitol of the world. Once one is away from the big cities little fruit stands also were tucked all over the place. Eventually the need came to stop at a rest stop, which we did. It was on a windy little hill, I think there was one tree in sight, (Upper left picture) a pitiful little scrubby thing that was most disappointing. It was what I saw in the distance behind it that made the stop memorable. Way off in the distance, further than I could estimate by eye, was a giant mountain, white with snow. It towered over the bland desert below like an some ethereal being, unconcerned with the mundane activity beneath it. “What is that?” I asked him. “That is Mount Rainier ” he announced with some pride in his voice. We had always bantered insults and put downs back and forth over a lot of things, his addiction to coffee, our states, my hair and his lack of it. After all what’s a friend good for if one can’t insult them now and then?? Well anyway, I was humbled, outclassed right now and all I could do was acknowledge the superiority of his state. However under no circumstances could I allow him to sense this, appearances after all must be kept up. So I just casually remarked that it would be neat to see it and asked how far away it was. Both answers were worth hearing. First, we would be going up to the foot of it in a day or two, and second, it was about 200 miles from us.            I found that awe inspiring as I had never been in the presence of anything that big. So that day we went on to see Chief Joseph dam and the Columbia river, which is so clean and clear it brings disgrace to the ditches that we call rivers in Missouri. I was starting to be less enchanted by my home state. I think it was the next day, or maybe the one after that we actually set off into the mountains. A pilgrimage like that cannot be taken lightly by anyone, especially two broken down geezers and a younger semi-broken down wife. There are no rest stops, no gas stations or markets, and in most cases no cell phone service. If you break down up there, as we say at home, you’re in a passel of trouble. But we’re tough, crazy, and had God looking over us so we set out, mountain bound. As we got further from civilization, the magic started working. The mountains are the most majestic things I have seen anywhere. The trees are like ancient giants, sleeping, oblivious to our scurrying about at there feet. Until now We had seen everything through car windows while moving all too fast. It’s not that Kohler drives like a crazy man, in truth he is an excellent host and tour guide, he drove as slow as possible in the really magnificent places. The fact was that any speed was too fast. This is way more than an average Missouri boy can assimilate while moving any speed. What I really hoped for was a chance to stop, get out, and walk around and once again our host anticipated this. “I want you guys to see someplace special” he said as he drove, “I think you’ll like it.” I found it highly unlikely that I wouldn’t like it. My heart was pounding and I wanted to get out and dance around, but chose to sit still and wait. After another hour or so we turned a corner and the view of the neatest city I’ve ever seen unfolded as we watched. It looked like a little Swiss village, or more precisely, a Bavarian village “This” he announced, pride again in his voice, “is Leavenworth , “I think it’s a cool little town. ‘Cool’ was an understatement, it was right out of a storybook, I really expected to see snow white walking down the sidewalks or The Seven Dwarfs B&B. I decided instantly that I would definitely like to live there. There were, I decided, three reasons that made this impossible. There were my kids, I get them ever other weekend and if I was here we wouldn’t get to see each other. And there is also the fact that there are people at home who depend on us to take care of them and if we weren’t there it would be bad. There was also the problem of not having DSL, for me, living without DSL is just insurmountable, it aint gonna happen. But anyway, back to the narrative. I made some comments about how I liked this town and wouldn’t mind spending the rest of my days here. “Well there is a nice house for sale real cheap down the road not far from where I want to take you.” It took some time for that to soak in, I had after all thought the city we just saw WAS what he wanted me to see. When I saw the house I couldn’t believe how cheap it was; we could have probably managed to buy it. It was ideal in every way, it had everything I thought I would like to spend the rest of my days. But the idea was impossible because of the responsibilities  we have at home. Nope, on we drove, further and further down a little dirt road; it was clear that wherever he was taking us was remote, this was the real thing, not tourist views or passing glances through windows. When we finally stopped he said “This is icicle creek” he said as he turned the car off. “I used to camp here a lot, I always liked it." I was convinced that even heaven can’t be much better than this.  The car was tiny when viewed along the giant trees. There were no people in sight or within hearing distance, what was more, was there was no litter. It looked pristine, pure, perfect (and I use that word with precision). The giant trees touched the clouds, I’m 6’4 ½” tall and it would have taken 3 guys my size to reach around one. They are massive. Under them is a thick bed of needles that I could easily have sank down onto and slept peacefully the rest of the day. My wife and Kohler were talking, Helen was taking pictures, she will take a good 200 a day so she was in her element and wasn’t watching me. I wandered off alone and sat on a rock. Clearly, this was the stuff of legends and fairy tales.  Magical might not be the correct term to use, but this place was and is special. I felt God’s presence here more than any other place I have ever been, except one. The only way I can look at or think of that spot is with reverence. The water gurgling down through the creek was clear and cold. I had a long slow drink from it. As it went down it felt like a healing elixir. I know it was just water, but yet it felt like more. I know that there are any city folks reading this, and many of them will be cringing at my mention of taking a drink from a creek. Mantras of safety will be recited and admonitions of water treatments will be leveled at me. But that’s ok, Country boys drink from creeks and springs, its just something we do, I’ve never yet known anyone to suffer any adverse effects from it. We’ve done it for hundreds if not thousands of years, no city person will understand or stop us. Eventually we had to leave because Kohler explained that driving up in the mountains wasn’t a smart thing to do if it could be avoided. I was all in favor of catching a motel in Leavenworth , but finances wouldn’t allow it, besides had I got there I would have found a reason not to leave. I wouldn’t have been above sabotaging his car. So we left Leavenworth and icicle creek, forever etched into my heart. That night I dreamed about sleeping under the giants, there giant fingers protecting me from sun and rain and wind. I dreamed of the creek gurgling gently, calling out to me. Yes, I know this is a sentimental, romantic description, but it’s the way I feel. The next day we were back at his house, after the long drive the previous day all of us were sore and stiff and not moving well. The decision was made to take a short drive, he was going to show is sites around town. That was ok, because anything in his life interests me. We were driving through some farmland, Kohler pointed to some purple looking mountains way in the distance. I always heard the term purple mountains and never quite understood it until then. They were indeed purple, distant, and hazy, but well defined against the sky. “That’s where we were yesterday” “That’s where icicle creek is?” Helen asked. I didn’t say anything, my voice would have broken up anyway and I don’t like to cry in front of people usually. I knew that if I looked at the distant purple mountains I would break. I felt as though I had just touched a part of paradise and then been yanked away. I knew in my heart that I will never see that place again in this body. I have had loved ones die, children die, 20 year marriages die and dreams die, but none of them affected me this deeply. I felt then and feel now that this place that caught my heart was the closest thing I will see in this life to what God intended His creation to be. Now, 2 years later I still have the same feeling, ever since that day I feel like I have touched something special and then been ripped away. But don’t we all look for something deeper and greater?  Every ‘religion’ in the world has aspirations to a better place. I think the need, the calling is in all of us whether we acknowledge it or not. Even some atheists secretly search for something better. For them though, there isn’t anything better. I know that no place on earth is even remotely close to what heaven is like, regardless of how magical it is. That only makes me long for it more, if this tiny little corner of earth was so magnificent, what will heaven be? It will be beyond anything I can imagine or you can imagine. It will be perfect, in every way. Some day, which is approaching, Kohler and I will be there. Whichever one gets there first will be on the welcoming committee. If its him, I hope he has one of those name tags like they give you at seminars that says “Hi, I’m Kohler!” because since his body will be perfect he will have hair and I might not recognize him. I’m also expecting a few other people who made big differences in my life:  I’m expecting my grandpa, and my first boss and friend, Mr. Moellinger, and my teacher, Mrs. Caby who always expected the best from me and was there to love me, even 40 years after I got out of school. Then, maybe I’ll take off with them right away to greet some of my friends and welcome them home. Ah well, in truth it probably won’t be quite like that, but however it is it will be perfect. Kohler and I will have perfect bodies, no arthritis, systems working perfectly, as intended. No, the atheists can stumble around thinking this is all there is and then you die, sadly for them that’s the truth. As for me, I keep longing for a distant mountain. One day I will rest there. One day I will fly there without the need of planes. On that day, I will live.
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