I woke this morning after a peaceful night’s sleep to the vision of a dream. Crashed in a sleeping bag on the floor of a modern cabin I could see the glorious view from Talkeetna. A cascading image came pouring through the window in a stream of light reflecting snow from the summit of Denali.
But rolling over before rising something else caught my eye. On a low shelf beneath an old television set with rabbit-ear antenna and a VCR was a row of tired paperbacks. There I found a dogeared copy of the first novel I had ever read and likely began my career as a writer.
“To Kill a Mockingbird” left an impression upon me that has lasted a lifetime. The Pulitzer Prize-winning story of childhood adventure set against the foolish notions of racial prejudice in the middle 20th century was my introduction to superior storytelling and the development of characters who’s very lives illustrate the thoughts and ideas of a long-ago time that still resonates through this very day.While reading the first few pages I was brought back to the rich and nuanced writing of Harper Lee. A brilliant master of prose she has the uncanny ability to convey incredible meaning and depth of feeling in just a few words. A skill I aspire to in my own writing I can only hope that I can deliver a least a little of the passion and conviction in the story that is now unfolding right before my eyes.
As Denali stands there in the distance on this crisp clear morning in spring I’m suddenly made aware of the audacity it takes even to get this far. To set a goal and see it through to its conclusion on the highest physical point anyone can reach in your nation is a frightening proposition. And now that I am no longer on the Expedition Denali summit team to actually climb the mountain I suppose that I should take some consolation in not having to brave the bitter cold or dizzying heights. But I am charged instead with telling this story with equal parts passion and conviction to impress upon readers the critical importance that all people be prepared to risk their fears and pursue their dreams wherever they might lead. And just like that the risk of loosing a toe to frostbite or falling into a crevasse seem to me a much more favorable alternative. I’d much rather climb than write.
Seeing it here for the first time Denali has left a lasting impression upon me. And when my health has fully recovered to return the full strength and flexibility of my legs I sincerely hope to one day climb the mountain myself. But for now on this expedition to put the first majority African-American team on the summit my job is to bring the story to life and hopefully impress upon you how we might finally set aside the artifacts of our racially segregated past. Literally or figuratively the great mountains of the world are for everyone. Each of us need only decide for ourselves to reach beyond our apprehensions to grasp the even the most elusive dream.
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