A Mountaintop Experience

A Mountaintop Experience

Deborah Beach Giordano
© March 8, 2011

“Where is he going?” “Who knows. Crazy old fool; always wandering off into the hills.” “Shouldn’t somebody go along to make sure he’s ok?” “So are you volunteering? You want to follow him around all day?” “He always finds his way back. Besides, what could happen? There’s nothing and nobody around here for miles.” 

The young man shifted his weight from one foot to the other, “I don’t know,” glancing over his shoulder at the steadily retreating figure, “It just doesn’t seem safe for him go off all alone.”

“Fine. Then you go. Nobody’s stopping you.”

One last moment of hesitation, then Josh set off, his friends’ mocking laughter echoing in his ears. He was slightly out of breath when he caught up with the old man, who marched forward at a steady pace. His arrival went unacknowledged.

“Nice day for a walk.” he said, brightly.

“Watch where you step; the sheep have been all over this hillside.”

“Oh, er… Right you are!” They continued on in silence, Josh carefully scanning the ground.

After they passed over a small stream, Josh paused and listened. Crickets were chirping, bees were humming, a dog barked in the distance … but beyond that, beneath that, was something else he couldn’t quite name. Whatever it was, Josh knew he’d done the right thing by deciding to follow along.

It was peaceful here away from all of the noise and dust and bustle, and pleasant to be free from the bragging and posturing of his friends. It was wrong of them to scorn this simple old fellow. He’d never done them any harm, just gone off on his own from time to time, following his own path. Why did that bother them so much? It was none of their business. This guy would never hurt a flea.

Striding along, warmed by his thoughts, Josh failed to notice that his companion had stopped. The collision knocked them both to the ground. Leaping to his feet, he began a garbled apology, “Oh, sir! I was just… I didn’t mean… I’m so sorry. Are you all right? Can you stand? Is anything broken?”

“Broken?” the old man roared, “Broken? Do you think I’m so feeble that I’m liable to break? I’ve climbed mountains and crossed deserts without a scratch! ‘Is anything broken?’ What nonsense!”

Josh stood silently as the shouting faded to a grumble, “Young idiot … no more sense than a toad… or a rain of toads, for that matter.” A slow smile appeared on the wrinkled face, “All right then, why don’t you help this ‘poor, frail old man’ get up?”

Reaching out, Josh felt the firm grip as the man pulled himself easily to his feet. His eyes sparkled, “Not too bad for an old coot, hey?”

He looked down, abashed, “I’m sorry.” But the man was already nearly out of earshot. “I’m sorry!” he called out, “It’s just that …”

“It’s just that the old are always unsteady, unreliable, incapable, infirm, and insane …”

“I didn’t say…  I, I don’t think that.” Josh replied hastily, as he hurried to catch up, “My grandmother ..”

“Is very sweet and dear, I’m sure. But we’re not here to talk about families, or old people,” the man interrupted, “We have places to go, work to do, and no time to waste. Right now let’s cool our throats with some fresh water, rest for a while, and then be on our way.”

“I didn’t bring anything along to drink.” In the last few minutes Josh was beginning to regret that he’d come along at all.

The old man shrugged his shoulders, “What’s wrong with spring water, straight from the earth?”

“Nothing. If we can find any.” Josh looked around. They had stopped under a rocky outcrop which shaded them from the midday sun. The grasses had dried up months ago, and the ground was hard and cracked like a broken pot. Cicadas buzzed from their hiding places.

Running his tongue over his dry lips, Josh was suddenly and sharply aware of being very thirsty. Wouldn’t that be the height of absurdity: to follow this old guy out here only to die of thirst!

Beyond them the path grew steeper and stonier, the surrounding hillside covered with thistles and thorny underbrush.

“What are we going to do?!” his voice sounded shrill. Josh cleared his throat and tried again, “Um, I mean; there doesn’t seem to be any water.”

The old man frowned. Using his walking stick, he tapped the rock beside him, “What about this?” Water was dripping steadily through a crack in the stone.

Later, sitting in the shade sipping the clear, cool water, Josh made a mental note to pay closer attention to his surroundings. He had failed to see what must have been right under his nose.

He leaned back and sighed contentedly. It was a beautiful day. In the distance puffy clouds were transformed as they traveled across the bright blue sky. First a sheep, then a flower, a face, a family group aboard a boat a-sailing on the sea ….

With a start Josh awoke to see the old man standing before him, staff in hand, “Come on, come on! Night is the time to sleep. We must do our work while the sun is shining.” With that, he turned and headed up the mountain.

The rest had certainly invigorated the old fellow; hurrying along behind him, Josh found that no matter how quick he was, he could never quite catch up. Several times he caught sight of him, but then the path would curve around a boulder or dip into a valley and the old man would disappear again.

It was getting later and later and a storm was brewing; the fluffy clouds had assembled themselves into a thunderhead and the sun was falling behind the horizon. Josh was cold and hungry and tired.

“Where are you?! Come back!! It’s going to start raining and it will be dark soon. We’ve got to go back!” his shouts were half-hearted. He knew it was a futile effort.

The old man was gone.

So much for keeping an eye on him; for looking out for him so he’d be safe. Now he, Josh, would end up as the object of a search party. He’d never live it down. If they found him.

It began to rain.

Josh knew it would be foolish to try to make his way down the mountain in the dark. He would have to camp there for the night.

The only problem was that he knew nothing about camping.

His first thought, quickly dismissed, was to find a cave. While a cave would provide shelter — assuming he could find a cave — if it turned out to be occupied that would be a bad thing. Even if it was empty, there was a chance that the resident was simply out and about on his daily rounds and would, upon return, be mightily discomfited by the presence of a squatter. Probably mightily angry, too. And that would also be a bad thing. The wise choice, his only choice, was “roughing it.”

Shivering in the fading light, Josh lay down under a scrub oak. “Holy God, protect me,” he prayed, “And look after that old man, please.” Physically weary and emotionally exhausted, he fell asleep at once.

“For a young’un you sure do a lot of sleeping!” Josh sat up, blinking in the bright sunlight and befuddled by half-remembered dreams.


“And superbly articulate as well, I see.”

“It’s you!” Josh was on his feet, “Let’s get out of here and go home. I’m starving.”

“You haven’t eaten?” the old man reached up and shook one of the oak’s branches. A rain of tiny white seeds fell into his hand. “Here,” he said, “this will hold you for a while.”

Hesitantly, Josh took a taste, “Wow! This stuff is great.” It had the flavor of graham crackers made with honey. He helped himself to some more, “I wish I’d known about this last night.”

The old man’s smile seemed to light up his face, “Well, as they say, the Lord will provide. Now, let’s get a move on, I’ve got some messages to deliver, and … you could say that ‘they’re weighing heavily on me.’”

Josh watched as the old fellow practically skipped down the path like a young lamb. He shook his head in amazement and called out, “Hey, Moishe, wait for me!”

Exodus 24:12-18

as interpreted by Deborah

God said to Moses, “Climb to the top of the mountain and await My arrival; and I will give you stone tablets on which I have written the Torah and the commandment for the people’s instruction.”

So Moses went up into the mountain of God with his assistant Joshua.

He told the elders, “Sit tight until we return. If any problems come up before I get back, Aaron and Hur can deal with them.”

Then Moses and Joshua went up the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain.

The radiance of God descended on Mount Sinai, hidden within the cloud. After seven days God called to Moses out of the cloud. From below it appeared to the people as if the entire mountaintop was on fire.

Moses entered the cloud on the mountain. Moses was on the mountain for forty days and forty nights.

About inklingscommunity

I am a struggling Christian, committed pacifist, near-obsessive recycler, incurable animal lover, inveterate tree-hugger; a nature mystic, a socialized introvert, an advocate for the vulnerable, an opponent of exploiters.
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