The Old Man and the Mountain

It was a cold, dark, winter morning when he awoke at 5:30 a.m. He left the comfort of a warm bed and he stumbled into the bathroom to do his business and brush his teeth. His old, worn body was achy and stiff from arthritis and weak from past surgery and cancer treatments. He ingested a few Ibuprofen arthritis pills to control the pain.  Trying to be quiet so as not to awaken his wife, he dressed. He put on his thermal underwear base layer and ski pants and got into his Chevy Suburban. His skis and boots were already left in the back of the vehicle. The hour drive to the mountain was uneventful. He arrived early as intended. The parking lot was mostly empty and he got a good parking space. Covid masks are now required to enter the ski resort. Skiers can no longer enter the lodge to dress and get into their equipment.  He strapped his heavy ski boots around his neck and carried his skis and poles to the base of the mountain. It was a short walk but still his arms became weary. A bench at the base of the mountain was available. He sat down to rest and put his boots on. He needed to take off his gloves to manage the buckles. The cold stung his fingers and toes which were chronically sensitive from poor circulation and neuropathy and arthritis. He painfully forced his feet into the boots and buckled them up as tight as possible. “Not too bad so far,” he thought to himself. His feet and ankles were now fixed in a permanent position in the molded ski boots. Helmet and goggles were positioned properly. He then snapped his boots into the bindings of his skis. Now he was locked in and ready. “Skiing is easy,” he reasoned to himself. “The chair lift will bring me up the mountain and gravity will bring me down.” When he arrived at the mountain top, he slid off the chairlift and skied to the top of the precipice. He gazed down from the edge of the abyss. The steep terrain was covered with hard packed snow and patches of ice. The sign to his right revealed double diamond and read “Danger, expert only.” He knew he was no expert but he also knew from past experience that he could manage this slope. Of course, there was always the possibility that one could lose one’s balance, or catch an uphill edge and fall or careen off the trail into a tree or ravine. He had to trust his knowledge and skill and of course, his bindings. The bindings must hold him to his skis despite the high pressure generated when turning, yet the bindings must also release him to prevent the leg and ankle bones from snapping if the pressure grew too great, especially in a fall.

When looking down a steep hill the initial reaction is to back away or at least lean back as you descend. In skiing however, one must lean forward into the slope transferring weight to the front and tips of the skis. Off he went, facing death, falling down the hill, flying on snow, cold chilling wind in his face, lungs sucking air through the mask. He arrived at the base and after ten more runs he returned to his car, now warm, sweaty, alive and exhilarated.

 As he drove home, he thought about his life and his death and curiously he thought about bindings. He thought about how Abraham bound his son to prepare him for sacrifice. How Jesus was bound to the cross. How our souls and spirits are bound to our flesh and blood bodies. He remembered how Isaac’s binding was released as he was spared from death. How Jesus released His spirit to the Father at the moment of His death. And how when we die our souls and spirits are released back to the creator of life. And so it will be for the old man, binding and releasing until his time comes for that final release. But now he was home and safe and alive and hungry. As he walked through the front door he inquired, “What’s for lunch?”

3 thoughts on “The Old Man and the Mountain

  1. Dr. Hirsh
    I so enjoy reading your posts. I appreciate that you continue to write these. I continue to keep you in my prayers.


  2. Hello Friend. I may not comment on your enlightening words that you post, but, I believe your patients & the entire staff are forever bound to you & Elizabeth with enduring friendship, love and respect! I Thank God for the life you enjoy living! Cindy K


  3. Mark,so thankful that I still get to read if not inhale all of your posts even if I don’t possess the intellectual firepower to completely understand them, lol. I appreciate the great depths you go to in weaving your own personal physical experiences into a rather poetic maze of the metaphysical. Your genius throughout all of this and your scholarly grasp of the Old Testament leaves me breathless and wanting more, always stimulating me to be a more of a seeker like you. You remind me so much of my readings from another “Marc”, Marcus Aurelius and his “Meditations”, an entreaty into Stoicism from which we gain great personal insight from this timeless advise.I have drunk your “Kool-Aid” dude & can’t wait to take another gulp!. Much love to all, and best wishes always! Rick Jones (BTW, retirement SUCKS)


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