In 1924, no man had ever reached the summit of Mt. Everest, and George Mallory wanted to be the first. When asked why, he said, “Because it’s there.” The young adventurer with his friend Andrew Irvine attempted to climb with primitive clothing and gear by today’s standards. Hikers in 1999 discovered his body, where the freezing, dry air had preserved it. No one knows if he died ascending or descending. The expedition never found his climbing partner, though tethered together.
Since his death, over two hundred climbers have perished attempting to reach the peak. Mountaineers trek past the remains as they try to scale the ice-covered rocks. The air is so thin helicopters can’t retrieve the bodies. The occasional colors are the snowsuits flapping on the well-preserved corpses. No animals disturb them because they don’t climb so high. Nature never intended humans and creatures to walk where 747’s fly.
Climbers who reach the summit celebrate just a short time. If they tarry too long, they may die on top or while descending. Guides call the peak the death zone because a body can’t survive with such thin air—even with supplemental oxygen.
It’s interesting, we describe our happy times as mountain-top experiences, but miles-high adventurers can’t tarry there long. God didn’t design man to live on the mountain top. We live and work in the valleys where life is. Farmers toil in the bottomland because water and warmth are available for plants to grow.
We walk with our loved one through the “Valley of Dementia,” but it needn’t be the “Valley of Despair.” Below every snow-capped peak is a green, bottomland, and there we’ll find a stream. The Psalmist describes God as a river.
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth gives way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her; she will not fall; God will help her at the break of day. Psalm 46 NIV
In another scripture, the prophet Balaam stood on a mountain looking below on the Israelites and said:
How fair are your tents, O Jacob, Your dwellings, O Israel?
Like valleys that stretch out, like gardens beside the river.
Like Aloes planted by the Lord, like cedars beside the waters.
Numbers 24:5-6 NASB
Lowlands are where we find deer in meadows, songbirds in trees, and refreshing water. It’s where we live. Dirty diapers, budgets, and laundry are our life, but so are school plays, soccer, and Sunday dinners. I’ve learned with age, we make pleasant memories along the winding streams of everyday living.
Sure, I smile when I remember the vacation when my youngest daughter caught the biggest trout. It was a mountain-top event. But in contrast, I have fond remembrances of our pizza and movie nights when our family gathered to close a week of school and work.
In the valley, we see the morning mist rising from babbling brooks, hear honey bees buzzing between flower petals, and smell the fresh-cut hay. In this everyday living, I’ve learned contentment.
Someday, I hope to travel across the USA. I’ll visit mountains, take a ferry along the coast, and crisscross the country by train. Those mountain-top episodes will have to wait while I walk through a valley with my mother. I’m satisfied for now.
© Copyright 2018 Ronald Milburn