We were a family, with all but my brothers Jack and Cole, hiking a mountain in Kauai called Sleeping Giant. When I heard we were going to hike, all of us, even me, I was so excited. But then I was wondering if I would become too exhausted, borrowing strength where there was none. Writing about this now, I realize that’s exactly what I did. We walked up a mountain and we pushed ourselves. Would we make it to the top? Would I make it to the top?
I always wondered why people would want to climb a mountain. I wasn’t sure this was something I could do. I had hiked before but not like this. We had wonderful short hikes and great times with those. One time, though, I became very exhausted, which I still vividly remembered. Would this hike be like that?
When we discussed this trail I was told that I could stop at any time to rest or to wait for everyone else to complete the hike, at any place, whenever I wanted. Encouragement was offered but I was also given realistic descriptions about this mountain, so I wouldn’t feel this was something that I had to do, but could choose to do. Because the power often is not there for me like it is for others, that gave me so much confidence.
With our snacks and Camelbacks full of water, we positioned ourselves at the trailhead. We began briskly walking up the mountain, winding back and forth with a steep incline through the trees. The path was often boldly mocking me, a blind man, trying to navigate with one hand on my hiking pole and the other on my dad’s shoulder. Walking, tripping, and falling into my dad, each step I took was a victory. My hiking pole was extra security. It allowed me to ask questions and get answers, which helped to ease my worries, while I put my trust in my dad to keep me safe. He and my mom did their best, but I did fall off the trail twice. We were all learning each step I took.
Looking around would not help me in this unfamiliar and unpredictable environment. While walking, bright and wonderful things will pop into my limited sight, causing disabling distraction and confusion for me. But when I’m in a familiar place I can make sense of those things. While everyone else enjoyed the views, the beauty found on this mountain was perspective for me. I would like to see what they saw but I don’t lack beauty from my experience. Borrowing strength through worth, love, and words of praise, I was able to walk on with my dad. The cool breezes, warm sunlight, and occasional rain were welcomed variations while I clumsily worked my way to the top. We walked until we came to an opening.
I was told there was an obstacle. We stopped and discussed what would be the best way for me to climb this solid ten-foot rock wall. Looking around I saw bright possibilities. Looking ahead I felt a cold, hard, rock wall. An impenetrable wall. Walls are meant to keep things out but this wall was not built by man. This wall was God’s, and we were going to climb it.
When I touched the rock wall, wondering what it smelled like, I brought my hand to my nose. It smelled like dirt but felt like a challenge. But what was probably unusual about that brief moment was my desire to take on that challenge so quickly that others were caught by surprise and asked me to slow down. It felt like something I already believed I could do. I placed my hands where I could secure my grip, working my way up through touch, while my dad guided with directions and each foot placement. We made it to the top of that wall, where I sat a few feet away and rested while taking in the wonder of my accomplishment. As I sat people who had so patiently waited began to pass by me. They were so kind with their words of praise. One guy even said I was “badass”, which was possibly more memorable than anything I have ever been told before. Looking around, loud and clear, I saw a future for me and two more miles to the top of Sleeping Giant.
When I brought writing words for communication into my life, well, people started to understand that words were just hidden behind lips that wouldn’t express. But because my writing could be slow, musings would often be left without any opportunity to ask or discuss questions I had. “Blood is thicker than water”, for example. What? Well, being the inquisitive wordless person that I am, I tried to understand what this might mean. I now know, bright as the sun in my eyes, that it’s a love like we only feel from our family. Whether we share blood or would otherwise not know each other, though, does not seem to be as important as the saying would lead you to believe. Sometimes words coming from strangers can feel like the love of a brother, when they become words spoken out of a bond created, in a moment of respect, for who I am. I would find my strength begin to increase in moments like this. Bringing worth to me beyond what my family expresses, I know they love me, but this was a beautiful gift when strangers saw me as an abled human and shared a bit of love. I am wondering, would they be as kind, would they be as proud, had they known me as a child? Would they love the words I write? Would they realize how much their words would strengthen me?
We did make it to the top. We sat at a table enjoying a snack, water, and the love of a family sharing this incredible mountain. I pushed with all my strength up that rock wall. I realized later that this was the first time I’d been able to pursue a goal and complete it in one day. We climbed portraying what challenge was for each of us. The Sleeping Giant of Kauai may still be resting, but the Giant lives awakened inside of me.