My early experience of mountains was the gently ascending roads of the Adirondacks in New York state. Even the hairpin turns as we gradually climbed the 5,000-foot Whiteface Mountain weren’t scary.
But it was a different story when I first visited the Canadian Rockies with its 12,000-foot peaks—especially as we travelled above the tree line on sometimes treacherous roads.
A year before we moved to Kansas, we took a weekend winter jaunt to Jasper with our good friends, Karl and Winnie. We stayed in a nice hotel, hiked, and roasted wieners in the snow.
Then, the group decided to climb a mountain.
With trepidation I went along. But early on the climb, we had to crawl up a treeless mountain with a 45-degree slope. At the foot of the slope was a raging icy river.
It was too scary for me, although Karl said he would support me.
I should have trusted Karl because he had been the medical doctor for a team that climbed Mount Everest. But I didn’t! All I could see in my mind’s eye was two small children without a mother.
Finally, they went on without with me. I was too far away from the hotel to find my way back, so I climbed on a huge boulder in order to see any bears.
Those three or four hours by myself in the wilderness were life-changing for me.
My oldest child was eight years old and already had a life of her own. And I realized that it was unfair to expect Howard to give up mountain climbing because of me.
Obviously, it was time to plan the rest of my life. So I did! By the time they returned from their expedition, I had a wonderful plan.
Part of that plan was to earn a master’s degree in literature. And I began working at it immediately.
I read and read. First it was Leo Tolstoy and other Russian authors of his time. I read their novels and their biographies, thus familiarizing myself about their era.
Then I became fascinated by the English Romantic poets—Lord Byron, his good friend, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and other poets of the time.
After a year of reading the classics, we moved to Kansas and I immediately sent an application letter to Wichita State University graduate school. Even though I had a degree in English literature, I was turned down—flat! I was told I would have to first enroll as an undergraduate.
That was not part of my plan!
As a result, I turned to my other love—writing. And later got a master’s degree in communications.
Then after 25 years of public relations writing, I was ready for my most exciting job of all: writing my column, “This Side of 60.”
I was never sure why I was turned down by Wichita State, but I have a pretty good hunch. Later, I read my application again and I had misspelled “Whichita,” not once, but several times.
Just imagine, if I hadn’t misplaced that “h,” you probably wouldn’t be reading this column today! And I would have missed a wonderful life.
Always remember how important it is to trust the rightness of what happens in your life—even if you don’t understand it immediately.
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