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TITLE: The Mountain
By Michael Ales

This is an exerpt from a chapter I am writing. Please give any feedback you have, just keep in mind that it is only introductory. Thanks!
~Truly it may be said that the outside of a mountain is good for the inside of a man~
George Wherry, 1896

Have you ever seen the Appalachians? Looming in shades of gray against a blue and white horizon they turn to shades of green as you approach. Before long they tower above your immediate surroundings, thick with forests that share the sky with the clouds. Drive the turnpike through Pennsylvania and you can see firsthand without bothering to use your imagination the breathtaking scene of some of the most beautiful landscape in America.

Though these elderly mountains aren't the high, rock-climbing variety like their young westerly cousins, they certainly are a sight to behold, especially to someone like me who lives in a no-mountain area of the country. As I drive through I like to imagine descending into a dark and misty valley, or working my way up through the tangled trees on any of the innumerable slopes. Maybe Iíd run into a black bear, or see a whitetail buck, or come alongside a cool stream and rest a while, or wade in and cast a fly toward the trout along the bank... I love to be on that road leading up and over and through the Appalachians where thereís so much beauty, so much grandeur, so much adventure waiting.

People view mountains in many different ways. Some in the way you might view a scene from a postcard or a painting. Some imagine tales of wiry old men panning in the rivers for gold, or of burly ones taking their axes to trees. Some people see a mountain the way a young boy sees the big oak tree in his back yard inviting him to climb against his worried motherís advice. Life is full of beauty, grandeur, adventure.

Thereís another kind of mountain in life though. Not so majestic. It is a mountain of trials. This mountain may look more like difficulty, hardship or tragedy.

At some point in life - or more likely many points - we all face a mountain. But the problem is that it doesn't always look so beautiful as the Appalachians. It often appears more foreboding as it rises up to challenge us on our way. Most often we see a mountain as something to be steered around, something to be seen from a distance. And the idea of climbing it? I donít think so. Weíd rather stick to level ground.

But we all need to understand something about mountains. The mere presence of a mountain in your life is potential for your greatest opportunity. I donít want you to miss this point. There is much to be gained by facing the mountain.

In the movie The Sound of Music, the Trapp family risked their lives to face a mountain (both literally and figuratively) and escape Hitler's reign. Rather than comply with the Nazi regime, they left their home, their friends, and their fortune, and they hiked up and over the Swiss Alps to a chorus of nuns singing "Climb Every Mountain."

Your mountain may look different. Maybe you've found yourself struggling to overcome a physical challenge that has left you defeated. You could be dealing with a lingering illness or the overwhelming feelings from losing someone close to you. Some are wrestling with an addiction that has had a stranglehold on them, while others are having trouble holding a job or finding a new one. How about starting a business, raising your kids (or your spouse), or even bearing the unrelenting weight of depression.

Whatever shape your mountain comes in, no matter how foreboding it appears, your victory is found in facing it head on, usually without the benefit of singing nuns.

Though the mountain can be filled at times with peril and uncertainty around every corner, it is in the climbing that you learn lifeís greatest lessons, where lifeís greatest potential is stored. And the prospect of living to your unique potential is more than worth the risk. Helen Keller said, "Security is mostly a superstition. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all." You were made to climb and conquer mountains...
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