Mountain-Sized Love

October 25th, 2010

Sometimes, love is like a moderately steep incline.

You get a little winded, and your body is challenged by the effort of moving in a way it’s not used to moving, but you keep going. You might have to stop every now and then to catch your breath and remind yourself why you’re on this path in the first place. But then you look at the person next to you, remembering when you saw them for the first time, and, suddenly, it doesn’t seem nearly as difficult.

I imagine that’s what the man in this picture was thinking. My friend and I passed him on a trail at the base of Mt. Rainier. It was an easy trail as far as trails at the base of a mountain go, but even for those of us carrying nothing but a camera, it was still quite difficult. My friend and I stopped every few minutes to catch our breath.

And that’s when we saw them. An old woman in a wheelchair, and her husband, pushing her slowly up the hill. He wanted her to see the mountain.

It certainly was something to behold.

The couple, not the mountain.

I had seen the mountain for the first time in my life, and was truly awed by its majesty. No photo could ever do it justice. I stood there in silence, drinking it all in. But nothing – not even the profound miracle of nature – compared with the display of selflessness and love exhibited by this man.

You could tell he was having a tough time. He stopped every few steps.

He was pushing a wheelchair uphill.

But I think he was doing more than that.

I think he was holding up a promise. He promised in sickness and in health, but he also promised the sharing of life experiences, the creation of joy and the promise not to give up — even when things prove challenging.

After we passed the couple, my friend and I stopped at the side of the trail — not because we were tired, but because we were crying. This photo doesn’t quite explain the beauty contained in that singular moment.

I learned there is a majesty to love. In all its rocky, misshapen twists and turns, there is a bigness to it – and it shows up in the smallest of ways. Like on the tattered wheels of a silver chariot, slowly inching its way up a mountain. And on the determined smile of the driver in back, who knows that the heart, much like the body, can only be strengthened if you exercise it.

Special thanks to my dear friend, Pamela Scholl, for taking this photo, and for stopping with me to silently witness my eleventh love story.