Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Lava Flowing From The Cauldron

As I cruised around the Ecuadorian landscape last month I was constantly reminded of how new land is formed repeatedly as the earth oozes its molten hot magma (insert Dr Evil accent here) from the subsurface caldron below.  Fresh fields of black lava rock are visible throughout the vibrant and relatively “young” islands of the Galapagos. Massive “lava tubes” and ridges make for scrambling fun around the interior's curtain of volcanoes.  It is a Geology 101 classroom that illustrates how the earth redefines itself on a regular rate… sometimes violently, sometimes subtly.

It’s been a couple weeks now since we wrapped up the 2nd iteration of Soldiers to Summits. Our objective was, in part, to summit the photogenic 19,347ft Ecuadorian volcano, Cotopaxi.  However, as with most mountain climbing expeditions, this experience was far less about standing on top of the summit but more about the beauty and struggle that happened prior to even stepping foot on the flanks of the mountain.

Looking at this expedition in the rear-view mirror now, I feel a bit like each of us at some point on the expedition took on the form of that newly spewed lava, occasionally blowing from the top of the cauldron in a dramatic and painful way… other times simmering and oozing slowly in a controlled and even keeled way. The end result is new earth… a new person laid over the former one.

How many times on this carousel we call life are we given the opportunity to redefine who we are? To shed the layer of unwanted skin and embrace the new garden-fresh self that lies beneath?  I would dare to guess that every one of us at some point in our lives would embrace the thought of starting with a new quiver of arrows or perhaps losing a few bad behaviors.

It’s typically a painful process when that old skin is shed... leaving that fresh, nerve-rich layer vulnerable and unprotected. Sometimes the proverbial band-aid will provide protection and comfort for a limited time as the healing takes place but we all know it’s only a patch and just hides what really needs to heal.

Soldiers to Summits was originally established with the idea of providing a venue for healing. We strive to provide a positive and nurturing atmosphere where an individual can peel back that layer of dead skin, expose themselves and allow the new terrain to grow and flourish.  As the program continues to “find itself” in how we can best serve our servicemen and women, it also has to go through this same “lava flow” process hand in hand with all who are associated with the program. We don’t have it totally right just yet, but reflecting back on our recent journey I am proud to say I was able to create some “new skin” in my own life through this expedition. I also watched with great satisfaction and respect as several band-aids were pulled off of some our veterans… some painfully, some with more caress. 

Growth is not pain free. Makin changes is not for sissies. I think the earth and it’s metamorphic process is a powerful example of how to handle it. Understanding that with the build up of pressure, there has to be an outlet. New lava has to flow. Sometimes that volcano will blow it’s top and shit will absolutely go down. Other times the slow moving magma will be just as effective at covering and creating new layers. Whichever pace that it happens, we are left trying to interpret our new skin and how to use it to make the world a better place. The new terrain is ours to walk on. Perhaps at first we just might want to tread lightly.

Climb High