¹⁸ Scribbled on a map of the Alps
On the photos, the summit is receding, again, as if retreating to the lost vision that we had seen from the lake: it is low bushes and flowers, green, almost lush, a climb, no doubt, but don’t mind the absence of sign-posting and a map,
see the prairie hoisting itself up the hill
opening a route
The wind unravelling clouds, over the land’s crest, big and small,
the minuscule islets, full of reeds in the midst of the waters
The small cluster of hikers and cows grazing on the hillside
We’ll get back in time
Do not worry
Even though, beneath the high grass, the earth is uneven and it locks feet, tugs on shoes, tramples toes. And under the surface’s green shine, the climbers’ grip is uncertain, for unseen stones sprout from the flowers and weeds. And one of them stops and will wait at the foot of the hill, meaning the other one is alone, without phone, good boots or a map. Their voices reach each other distorted and faint.
The altitude increases, the grass grows higher and at times hugs the climber breast-high. Feet prod a mossy soil, slick, upon which feet slip and pant. The ascent morphs into a climb,
Do not look down
Do not look down
The summit is reached, achieved, and an immediate giddiness strikes the hiker. It is so sudden — Later on, he will think it must have been the wind, the fear of heights, fear for his friend’s fear, or of this solitude or of this landscape, that has treacherously sucked him in. Because on the other side the sun already appears to be setting and there are no sounds and the way up is to sleep to climb down. The climbers motion to each other : “I will go down the other way”.
The summit does not yield a sense of victory; the mountain does not relinquish victory. It is hers, even climbed. What did he come looking for ?
The meadows have already reached the summit before him. In the golden hour, there is something uncanny in their stillness, something that calls dusk but not humans, where only animals can graze.
The way down brings him far. For a certain time, he only meets cows and wonders about Circe and her pigs and Hera of bovine eyes. He runs back towards the lake but his pace cannot outrun the late hour. He has disappeared from his friend’s sight for too long.
When they meet again, he understands his friend's anger and anguish and neither anger nor excuses, nor peace, nor this understanding, sincere, entirely dissipate his fear.
Back in his bed, he will dream of cows with their eyes
unblinking against the cliff.