Saturday, February 15, 2014

Beyond the Mountains...

There is a Haitian Proverb that goes "Beyond the mountains, more mountains." This saying was made famous in the spectacular book Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder. Read it if you haven't already.

When I was a boy I lived on a calf ranch in Chino Hills, Southern California. The ranch was nestled in some hills that bordered a state park which was protected from development. I clearly remember a particular Saturday morning when I decided I was going to find out what was on the other side of the hill my family's mobile home was parked on. I packed my little backpack with some snacks and water and set off on my little adventure. I couldn't have been much older than six or seven. I did not announce my intentions to my mom because I was wise enough to know I wouldn't get very far if she knew what I planned.

I summited our hill with the full knowledge there was another behind it because the next was higher. The mystery lay beyond the second summit. I climbed with great anticipation, only to find a third hill. I made it to the third summit, which required a detour around great patches of wild cactus. And guess what I discovered beyond that third hill. That's right. Yet another. By this time I was quite tired. I knew that wherever I happened to be, my journey home was only half over. And my older sister had told me tales of some oil company drilling test wells out in these parts, leaving gaping holes in the ground that would swallow me whole. It was time to turn back.

But I didn't give up my dream of learning what was beyond those hills. A few years later, when I was stronger and could safely make the hike, my father took me. We set off at the crack of dawn. We journeyed past that third hill. We crossed a creek. We ate lunch under a great oak with a trunk wider than my arms could stretch. We followed a fire road that coursed toward the highest peak in that range of hills, but we had to cross three more hills to reach that final summit. But we made it. At the top we had a panoramic view. I could see everything. It was one of those rare Southern California days where the Santa Ana winds had blown all smog far out to sea. I could see for miles. Clear to the ocean to the west, and beyond, all the way to Catalina Island. And to the coastal mountains to the south, the San Bernardino Mountains to the east and north. No more mystery. Only beauty.

These past few days I've been at a writers conference. I had a conversation with some young aspiring authors. They wanted to hear about my journey to publication. "How did you get a literary agent?" they wanted to know. "Did you get a lot of rejections?" All of the agents turned me down. Every single one. "Then how did you sign with one?" One of the agents that had initially turned me down changed his mind. "How long have you been writing?" Fifteen years. I wrote five different manuscripts before I managed to produce anything worth publishing, and it took me nearly eight years to see that manuscript in print. I could see it on their young faces. Surely there must be an easier way. Surely there must be a shortcut. Some way around the mountains.

There isn't a way around. But there is a way through. Especially if your Father goes with you.


1 comment:

Lisa said...

:) Amen! I love your posts! I'm glad the link to the latest one just happened to show up on my Facebook news feed. I am a Christian and a writer who has all but given up on writing, but I know God has something planned for me. Sometimes I get really confused and discouraged, but I still know He does. Thank you for writing these things.