I was driving in the northwest last week and as I went higher in elevation the scenery grew more and more lush, green and beautiful. To my left there stood a gigantic mountain, dressed in a snowy peak regardless of the 101 degrees my rental car showed down where the breathing was easier. My windows were down, the volume was up, my hand was out moving through the wind and my mind was at rest. The evergreens were magnificently lording their branches over the road, casting shadows over the path before me.
Then suddenly, there were no trees and the smell of pine and sun was exchanged for the lingering fragrance of fire. Much to my dismay I was driving through a lonely, seemingly forsaken space. The trees that had been following me were now replaced by charred poles sticking out of the ground, their glorious branches fallen like a life cut off too quickly and without warning. The smoke had brought it's haze to this place all the way from British Columbia where a fire had raged the week before. But the landscape here was set for it because a fire had already surged through this land. Still, there was an inescapable beauty about the flat and empty space I was now journeying through.
I had not driven to the top of any mountain, but I'd definitely come up to a higher place than I had started out from. Then after 30 minutes or so, I began driving down a steep hill, then winding above a town set even lower than the cliffs I was navigating the edges of. Still, the depth of the valley below surprised me.
You see, I had forgotten how long and how steep the climb upwards was that I had already traveled. I thought myself to have been at a lower elevation because I was focused on the landscape around me instead of realizing that I had come to a plateau within the mountain range, and I was still at a high elevation.
I came to a rest stop run by lovely people from another culture and ethnicity. This reminded me of the fact that no matter where we go we will find those who know how to navigate the land we find ourselves in. It's important to stop and ask questions of them so that we gain from their knowledge of the terrain we are passing through.
On the rest of my drive I wove through hills taking me up and down as well as going straight through flat places.
Life is like this don't you think? Ups and downs, fruitful and barren places, burnt landscapes and breathtaking views.
And we often believe that life is best lived on the summit of the mountain. That being higher than others, or at least higher than our own previous station, is a better place to be.
But I'll be honest- I believe in plateauing, if but for a moment. How else do we expect to rest, rehydrate, and reevaluate? It's the in-between space, where we can contemplate where we've come from and enjoy the expectancy of where we are going.
My stop in the valley was where I got out and stretched from the already long drive, where I found water to sustain the remainder of my day's travel, and where I looked at my map again to make sure I was correctly on course.
"Plateaus create opportunity to reflect on the glory of the mountain tops, both the ones you've climbed towards in the past and the ones you've yet to summit."
When you decide to climb any mountain in your life, it is imperative to allow the plateaus to assist you in your ascent. Don't perceive them as threats of complacency. The plateaus do not determine whether you set up camp for a night or choose to live there. Your perseverance determines how long you will stay and your mindset determines what you will learn while you are crossing the plateau.
Do not forget where you came from and the muscles that have become stronger from the hard climb you've already accomplished. Accept the plateau as a place to reevaluate your true goals, restore your overall well being, and to prepare for your continued journey. Take advantage of the place that allows you to rest the physical, emotional, spiritual and mental muscles that are fatigued from your climb.
Setting up camp and building a fire for a night on the plateau is not only acceptable, it is wise. But building a house from the sticks and stones you gather there is not.
Give permission for the in-between spaces to allow a time of restoration, reevaluation and preparation for the rest of your journey. Then tomorrow, pack up and get going. You've got mountains calling for you.