A couple of early readers of The Mountain Story have asked if I’m a big mountain climber—a natural question since I’ve written a novel about being lost in the mountain wilderness of California’s second tallest mountain. Alas, I’m not a big mountain climber. Not even a little one. I have severe motion sickness, and some vertigo, and sporadic fear of heights, and chronic fear of getting lost. Taking the near-vertical rotating tram from the scorching desert up to Mount San Jacinto’s sub-alpine wilderness at eight thousand feet was the courage equivalent of climbing Annapurna for me. The first time, I was with my husband, Milan, and even though I’d taken a large dose of motion sickness prevention, when the gondola hit the first transition tower and started to swing I thought I was going to lose it. Trembling, nauseated, I squeezed my eyes shut and squatted on the rotating floor, assuring Milan that I would never be making the trip again.
When the tram doors slid open I stepped out into that cool mountain air and was instantly revived, distracted by the beauty of the striated rocks and evergreen forests. We walked up a flight of stairs at the mountain station and were met with a stunning view of Palm Springs and the sunlit earth for miles and miles. The thick scent of pine made me think of Canada. The nearness of the clouds made me think of my childhood God. The breathtaking views made me feel reassuringly small. A serotonin high? The meds? The tram got easier as the years went by. I’ve been on the mountain dozens of times and the anxiety about the tram is gone altogether now. I still have to take an extra dose of motion sickness pills, but it’s worth it. Mountain climbing? Maybe one day, but for now I’m like most people and climb my mountains in metaphor.