Why, if you are not careful, Life will seem like you have stepped in between two large mirrors where your days past and future all seem the same. Never let that happen.
Stepping into Custer County’s Search and Rescue Barn that afternoon to be interviewed for the unpaid position of mountain rescue, I had to laugh for a split second inside my head as I approached the two leaders of this fascinating organization. One had served in Vietnam while the other of similar age had rushed back from his golf game wearing an elegant polo shirt with “Alfa Romeo” stitched in an equally elegant font: Ying/Yang! Nothing in this remote mountain valley is what it appears on the surface.
“Alec. These are standard questions we ask our prospective members. Are you ok with that?”, asked the military veteran.
“Yes Sir. Happy to answer any questions you may have.”, I replied, working to maintain a crisp demeanor in front of these two who I’m certain have seen quite a lot in their lives. Alfa Romeo? My mind drifts to Lake Como in the Northern Italian Alps…
“Have you ever seen a dead person up close?”, question one.
I knew this one was coming.
“I sure have. Saw a motorcycle under a semi and the rider under the truck. Just happened. I was ten. Seen three others, one by their own hand. Gruesome. I’m ok with being close to death. I guess you guys see this in the mountains every so often.”, came my impulsive reply.
And more questions followed and, oddly, I felt right at home in this setting; much more so than many of the interviews I could recall in the stultifying, corporate offices years ago. Somehow, this felt natural, as though Fate had finally brought me to where I was supposed to be. Home.
“Looking over your application, I think we’ll be assigning you to the team that goes high.”
A good feeling came over me just then as I realized not only that I’d have the privilege of joining this good group but that I’d actually find myself up higher where direct/initial contact is made with the climbers in need.
Sitting in my tomb-like office at the headquarters of Lockheed Martin back in the 1990s, why I would never have imagined doing something like this in my late fifties. Never. Sipping espressos in a cafe on the island of Capri, yes. Hauling gear up high in the middle of the night here in the Colorado Rockies, never.
And why wrestle with Fate? Fate wins. Always. And so, as I now begin to look back on my odd and disjointed life, I have finally begun to surrender to the greater forces and that, my friends, is actually quite liberating.
I’ve held a heavy vulture in Mongolia, worked alongside rough laborers on an 8″ pipeline in South Georgia, sailed in an elegant wooden racing sailboat with an elderly Austrian count on a pretty lake in Austria, smoked a $30 Cuban cigar on the balcony of the Hôtel de la Cigogne in Geneva, and recently followed my crazy wife up a class four smooth granite rock chute to the top of a mountain we own in the Colorado Rockies.
What the future holds is anyone’s guess…
And when this old dog returns to this wonderful valley next May, I’ll be issued some Search and Rescue stickers for my truck, some rather bright jackets, shirts, and reflective cap… and likely, the call will come in the middle of the night and within 30 minutes, I’ll be dragging myself into the SAR Barn to be briefed about a mission to go up high into the mountains to either recover or rescue a climber in need; hopefully rescue…
The road detours in the most interesting ways if only we relax our minds, surround ourselves with those with equally crazy tales to tell, and begin to see, really see…
And in the timeless words of Marcus Aurelius, we are encouraged to:
“Accept the things to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate brings you together, but do so with all your heart.”