by Leslie McLeod
Like the stoic evergreens that flanked the steeply ascending trail, our marriage had long survived—scarred but strengthened through seasons of drought, infestation, lashing storms.
Love compelled me to climb. He had invited, hoping to inspire my fitness and long life. I had accepted, hoping to share in his passion for the hike.
As the elevation increased, my lungs cursed the anemic air. Impoverished of oxygen, my limbs and attitude grew leaden, balky. I longed to turn back and abandon our quest for the elusive mountain lake.
“How much farther?” I asked a couple of descending hikers. With halos visible only to me, they assured me it was close; and after I’d struggled on for another fifteen minutes, the welcoming water appeared ahead, flung with fleeting diamonds by a winking sun.
I sank to the earth near its banks, leaning against an accommodating boulder, inhaling enjoyment with all of my senses. Aroma of pungent pine and primordial mud. Brazen aspens, rustling golden leaves like dancers’ coins. Cold alpine water, shocking, teasing my naked toes. Breezes singing through treetops and mountain passes, counterpoint to the creek’s cheerful allegro. Intense tang of hard cheese, spicy sausages, and sweet dried fruit.
Like our relationship—challenging, imperfect, enduring— the filter of our toil painted the scene’s layered beauty with intensity and value beyond measure.
Living near the Southern California coast, Leslie’s artistic leanings balance her role as co-owner of a tech company with her husband. She picks up her pen again after a hiatus to raise their two children and develop a passion for painting. Having lost her parents a few years ago, she is writing a book to help other women walk through that painful season without the added burden of unresolved relationship regret. Leslie also writes articles, poetry, and a blog. She loves to share the voice of her soul’s Beloved. She writes and paints at www.lamcleod.com and you can connect with her on Facebook and Instagram.