I’ve climbed Mount Monadnock several times since I was a kid, enough that I’m not really sure how many times I’ve actually made it to the summit. I’ve been up on days so clear that we could see Boston from the top, and on gray rainy drizzly days that, in hindsight, would have been much better spent at home. It’s been enough of a family tradition that we have long-running jokes about it (particularly the nonexistent lemonade stand at the top).
And every time, once I’ve reached the top, I tell myself that going down will be easier.
Experienced hikers are probably shaking their heads and smiling at this. I have no explanation for my continuing delusion on this point, beyond lightheadedness and the ease of old patterns of thought. Going down isn’t easier; it’s still rough and slow and, occasionally, painful. But what comes to mind now is the part of the trail past Falcon Spring, where it’s no longer nearly as steep and the trail’s wide enough to accommodate many people. And for some reason, this is the part of the trip that just. drags. on.
Maybe it’s because of memories of the first few hikes up the mountain, when I couldn’t wait to be back down again so that I could go home and jump in the lake. Maybe it’s because the only bathrooms are at the end of the trail, and that probably made an impression on the younger me as well. And maybe it’s because at this point, the hike is mostly over, and I’ve got my sights set on what comes next. For whatever reason, this is the part of the hike that should be easiest, but it’s where I get either so impatient I want to run the rest or so weary I can barely manage it.
In not unrelated news, I’m at the very end of a draft right now.
Each time through, I tell myself that “as soon as I hit X point, it’ll be smooth sailing.” As soon as I reach the museum scene. As soon as I get to the big fight. As soon as I get to the burning building. And each milestone just shows that there’s so much left to go and so much more to fix.
This ought to be the home stretch, right? I ought to be able to just zip through these last few chapters and have it done, right? But that last bit of the hike, the last couple of chapters, are somehow the worst to work through, regardless of how much needs to be done. It can be maddening.
But going by past experience, at some point in the next few pages, I’ll hit my stride, and when I reach the point where I dropped down two lines and wrote “THE END,” I’ll stare at my screen for a moment, blinded like a hiker coming out of the woods into full sunlight, unable to quite believe it’s done.
And then I’ll go jump in a lake.