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#13 - Boys to Men

"Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now." - Goethe

Sunshine Valley is a place where dreams are born. One of those, to be shared with my sons, was to scale 3,500 m Mt. Temple, third highest peak in the Rockies, in Lake Louise. Sunshine Valley, and the A-frame cabin of my parents’ home, served as a staging area, conveniently located as a gateway to the interior of BC and the Rockies beyond.  The boys were now in the later teens, and I was acutely aware that this may very well be one of our last defining moments together, something to live in our collective memories for years to come. 

Up before dawn, we set out along the edge of Moraine Lake at the foot of the Valley of the Ten Peaks. Rising through Larch Valley, we took the shoulder of Temple and gained a large snow chute suspended 2,000 meters above the floor. North Face ice axes, boots and helmets we were equipped for the mission; all but a rope I thought as we gained height and exposure, being off-piste from the normal route. This was the most physically taxing thing the boys had ever done, and was further demanding much of them mentally to remain calm and confident in the face of great uncertainty, to defeat the gnawing doubt, on the edge of endurance and very real danger, negotiating vertical rock and ice. They rose admirably to the challenge; Ikumi the Destroyer thrusting for the lead, Iori the Fearless, in a physically weakened state, plagued by illness, silent in his suffering. 

The summit ridge with its numerous false peaks was soul crushing. The peak, however, with its snow and ice cornices overlooking the precipitous face, swirling in the clouds and bracing sub-zero wind chill - once attained, was momentous. Despite the agony that wracked our bodies, we were swept away by an overwhelming sense of accomplishment and rapture. And yet, no sooner had we felt this, than we were faced by the seriousness of the task ahead as the weather closed in and it began to snow. Danger once again beckoned as we began our descent and each steeled himself against individual doubts. The agony of our bodies was indescribable, Iori was nearly broken, but he bore his agony in stoic silence, every step requiring maximum concentration. Hours later, as we gained easy ground there was an abiding sense of accomplishment, of rapture. Back at 9:00 pm, it was cold comfort that the Post Hotel’s famous dining room was closed, and ate pizza. The next night, however, still feeling the deeply satisfying ache of our adventure, we celebrated with wild game and wine, and regaled each other with our impressions for hours. 

It was here, while sitting with my boys, that I was hit by a future projection of a retrospection yet to come. “Ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.” - Gibran

As I had subconsciously registered, it wasn’t long thereafter that the boys left home, on to their own worldly adventures, one after the other, within days of each other. On the day of his departure to Tokyo, as we sat with the painful silence between us over a last coffee together, Ikumi looked at me and said, “I know what’s on your mind: what would you say to your nineteen year old self if you now could.” 

I was struck by the temporal nature of time and experience. Little could I have known that, as I write this now, it has already been six years since we last met. And yet, I am comforted by the many moments of intentional living that has marked our time together, of the awareness brought by quality time shared in the inextricable beauty of nature. 

Perhaps Proust, however great the title of his work, is bested by Rabindranath Tagore: "The butterfly does not count the years, but moments, and therefore has enough time." 

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