Sizing Up the Hill
I moved somewhere shockingly full of hills. My friend’s car even struggled a bit on the hill when he helped me move into my flat. Try as I might, I cannot escape the hills. To the bus station? There’s a steep hill. To the train station? There’s a steeper hill. The nice thing about hills is that they have two variant modes of travel: up and down.
But the way up these hills is hard. I haven’t even attempted the steeper hill until I get a bit more in shape. And the steep hill already elicits colorful language.
For the most part, I’m glad for these hills. They do manage to change my behavior, particularly when I have to think about carrying groceries up the hill, and tone my body, especially because I’m already feeling things in my legs. They will be legs of steel by the time it is time to leave.
Yet I wonder how I could adequately describe this hill to my friends who haven’t yet experienced it. Hills are hard to photograph. It looks like you’re taking a picture of a road. Or it looks like a very scenic shot of whatever is down the hill. I am half-tempted to produce something like a sea-level height chart or chart the flow rate of rainwater to showcase its contour. But mostly, I really want my friends who think I’m making a mountain of a molehill to see the hill. And I want them to try to walk up it with me.
And lately I’ve been thinking about my hill obsession. I also have a particular fondness for the Ladder of Divine Ascent. St John Climacus is one of the more severe saints in the cloud of witnesses as he really calls for a full-bodied asceticism. But I wonder if the same energy that fuels my desire to describe these hills is somewhat akin to St John’s energy to describe life in Christ. What if the various steps of the Ladder are simply St John’s attempt to describe the contours of Christian life?