A Hellvelyn of a Time
When I was 8 years old, I decided I was going to be a novelist. I think I heard about an 11 year old who wrote a series of novels about dragons and became a child prodigy. I remember thinking, "how hard can it be?" I realized the time had come to deploy a special blue glitter notebook that I had been saving for a special occasion. My debut novel seemed like a special occasion to me!
Once I had decided I was going to be a novelist, the next step was to determine the thrilling plot. Dragons were taken. I needed to be original. My 8 year old brain thought what would really speak to the hearts of my audience would be a tale of triumph, of human determination in the face of insurmountable odds (so original). The main character was a 12 year old girl named Kate, because when you are 8, you name the main character of your debut novel after your best friend. You also make the heroine a 12 year old, because the world of double digits seems ever so much more interesting than the world of single digits.
So, now that the main character was sorted, I needed the insurmountable task that Kate must master.
And the answer was... Mount Everest. I couldn't think of anything more insurmountable for my beloved heroine Kate to overcome than the tallest mountain ever. In the first chapter Kate wins a contest to climb Mount Everest, but... (in the true pre-teen fashion), Kate's parents won't let her climb Mount Everest (the nerve!). So Kate sneaks out (gasp!). Then, Kate breaks into the Mount Everest Shop and steals a backpack. But all of Kate's wrongs were going to be forgotten when she became the youngest person to summit Mount Everest, conquering all doubters and obstacles in her way. What I love about my heroine is her fearlessness. Even in her pre-teen state, Kate hadn't lost that child like wonder that seems to get tainted with age.
But alas, 8 year old Molly never finished the novel. I could have been a child prodigy, but I am glad I didn't have to deal with the fame.
I feel like, in a way, I was able to complete the story of "Kate: The Mount Everest Climbing Pre-teen" during a recent visit to the Lake District. In this plot, Kate is swapped for Molly, the mid-20's American girl who should probably do more cardio. And, Everest is swapped for Hellvelyn, the 889 meter tall Lake District giant. That really isn't that tall on the scale of the world, but we are talking England here.
The story begins with me spending a lovely first day in the Lake District wandering aimlessly around the little village of Grasmere by myself. I went on a few hikes, talked to some sheep, ate some of the famous Grasmere gingerbread, and bought some funny postcards. I also ate a really good scone and started a new book, which incidentally caused me to miss my bus. But, I still returned to my hostel refreshed from a day of exploration. As I was sitting up on my bunk researching what I should do the next day and chatting with some of my hostel mates, they began discussing climbing Hellvelyn. As they talked about Hellvelyn, my mind wandered back to the gingerbread and the scone and my need for cardio. So, I decided I would/needed to tag along.
We woke up around 6 and were on the bus headed to the foot of the mountain as the sun was rising. There was a nice little path running along a little brook under beautiful trees and an understory of ferns. I thought to myself, this won't be bad! Then we popped out from the forest, and all I could see was a path going straight up a giant mountain. Did I mention I should really do more cardio?
But I did it, what I had dreamed of as a little 8 year old writing her debut novel. I climbed the mountain. But at the top I wasn't greeted with cameras and inspirational music like Kate was going to be when the novel was made into a major motion picture. Instead, I was greeted with what felt like 60 mile an hour winds. In my last post I mentioned that autumn has a lovely crisp breeze that makes you feel like a pumpkin spice latte inside. Well, this breeze made me feel like I should have told my parents I love them before I left that morning. Also, we were literally inside a cloud we were so high. So our view was basically the edge of the cliff. My two friends and I crouched behind a stone wall and ate some chocolate and laughed because we couldn't hear each other over the wind and our faces were frozen. I also should have bought another layer of trousers at the Mount Everest Store. At the bottom of the mountain the sun was shining and the sheep were grazing and all was well again.
And as I stood waiting on the bus, I kept thinking about Pre-teen Kate and her bid to climb Mount Everest. I think at the heart of my debut novel was the simple idea that there are things in life that we feel called to climb, and more times than not it seems impossible to get to the top. Today is November 8th, 2016. It is a day that most of us are glad is here and are glad it is about to be in the past. I am sitting across the Atlantic Ocean from my home sweet home, 6 hours ahead, and scrolling through everyone's pictures with their "I Voted" stickers. I voted absentee which means, sadly, I don't get a sticker to instagram. But despite all the smiling faces and stickers, I think a lot of people feel like they are standing on top of Hellvelyn being knocked over by wicked winds in complete cloud coverage and no view of the valley below. All we can see is the rugged edge of the cliff. It has been a whirlwind election, with ugliness and divisiveness and lies and distrust and more lies and more ugliness. Most people can't hear each other any more, and we certainly can't see the view to the valley below.
But on November 9th, we will have an answer (hopefully). And we can begin the walk back down, to a place below the wind and the fog, below the faces of two people. Maybe we will even be able to see each other's faces and hear each other's voices again. This mountain that sits in front of us is insurmountable. No stolen goods from the Mount Everest Store will be enough to reach the top. But what we can see below the wind and fog and uncertainty is the lush valley below. There is a Good Shepherd, and He is in control.
So maybe the world of the future will look a lot different than the world 8 year old Molly knew when she was writing about Pre-teen Kate. But, may we still proceed with the same fearlessness and boldness, never losing our sense of wonder, because the King of all already sits on His throne. This world is a pretty marvelous place, because this world is not our home.
God Bless America. It truly is the land that I love. Go vote people! (and save me a sticker!)