Today’s Miles: 21.4
Total Miles: 3,169.3
Past Forbach, Germany – December 7, 2016
A sea of clouds stretched out below me, filling in the lowlands across the horizon, leaving only mountain tops to rise like islands. It seemed conjured out of imagination, splitting the world, not north and south or east and west, but up and down, leaving sunlight up high and winter below. I kept looking across the puffy white sea as I walked, half expecting a flying ship to rise above it, sails unfurled in the wind.
I thought the clouds would burn away in the sunlight, but they held their ground, swallowing the low country whole and mocking the sun for never rising high enough to stare them down. A summer sun would never have permitted the insult. It would have burnt the clouds to nothing and spent the afternoon drifting across the wreakage. But the winter sun is weak and could only watch from above and cling to the few mountain tops left to its kingdom.
The trail descended in the late afternoon, dropping me from the warmth of sunlight into the icy sea of clouds below. The city of Forbach looked frozen underneath the surface. White ice gleamed off everything. Mist cloaked the buildings. Chimneys pumped smoke off rooftops. The ground crunched under my feet. I almost thought I’d been dreaming about the sunny world above.
I stared across the narrow valley to the mountains rising on the far side, glad I would climb again, glad to leave this pocket of ice behind. But before I could, the sky woke up in the colors of sunset. I tried to walk faster even though I knew I could not reach the heights in time. The sun doesn’t linger here like it did up north. It touches the horizon and disappears. I could only stare up and imagine the beauty above, the sun burning its last light across the cloud sea, the thousand colors stretching away.
I missed it.
I shuffled through the day in my mind, finding the moments I could have pressed harder to claw back that hour I needed. Then I caught myself.
“You’ll get another chance tomorrow,” I said, “and a hundred tomorrows after that.”