Shivering against a punishing wind, he hunkered down to think. Barely able to see through the driving pellets of sleet, he was suddenly beset by the image of the tiny stained-glass angel hanging over the dashboard of his car. Why in the world would I think about that? It sent another shot of fear through him. Was hypothermia clouding his thoughts? Gotta focus! Consider my options!
Again the little angel seemed to hang in front of him. He tried to sweep away the image as though swatting at a fly, but the image persisted. Something in the back of his mind urged him to interpret the image rather than rejecting it. What? he asked. I’m supposed to feel guilty for not buying any gifts yet?
Bitter at his predicament, and urgently needing to marshal his rational thoughts, he tried to slow his breathing. Logic is good, he told himself, but so is intuition. Am I trying to tell myself something?
As the image presented itself again, he tried not for connotation, but for the visual of the image itself—and then it came to him. It was a creature suspended by a rope.
Great! he thought. Now you tell me! I didn’t pack a rope!
Still, the image seemed to hang in front of him. I must be desperate. I’m grasping at straws. But if there’s a straw to grasp, I’ll gladly do it.
The angel hung from a string, with outstretched arms. If I were the little angel, what would I be doing? If he took this literally, he’d reach his arms out in either direction. Reaching . . . reaching for what? His rational mind intruded.
He had no answer to that question. And yet the picture persisted, a nagging thought, something he felt compelled to do. You’re losing it, man. Alone on a mountain, you’re gonna reach for some mythological rope? Forget about it!
Feeling foolish, he chided himself and struggled to rein in his panic. But what did he have to lose by reaching? Though he could see a fair distance off to his right, the rock turned sharply off his left shoulder. I suppose there could be a ledge where I might jam my hand in, or maybe even a toehold so I could let myself down.
So, making excuses for whatever Spirit might be there snapping pictures to make a fool of him later, he turned to face the mountain, inched his feet to the northern-most ridge of the bench on which he stood, flattened himself against the cliff wall, and reached his right arm as far as it could stretch. Tracing along the rock for any irregularity, he felt a slight ridge through his thick glove.
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