I climbed Harper’s Mountain in my fifty-seventh year.
I didn’t really believe that I was ready, but the old tunes had grown stale and my right knee pained me worse each year. The old music wasn’t enough anymore and the door to newness was closing. Wouldn’t it be better to try and be refused than to live out my life untested, still playing the same harp I had been given as a girl? Now or never, now or never, now or never—the words niggled at me like a song stuck in my head.
So when the long days of summer came and the weather promised fine, I gave in. I bagged up my harp and some food and I latched the door on my cabin before daybreak, with my walking stick to help me on the way and a water-skin hanging heavy on my shoulder. The early start would give me the whole long day’s sunlight for the trip and—more important—it would get me out of town without having to answer questions. My neighbors know my skills. They would think me silly to travel the long hard way to ask for a circle harp. I’m not a master. I’m just a village musician, good enough for weddings and birthdays. I never took the road to learn from great teachers in distant lands and I never played for high folk or saw my music work on subtle ears.
After I failed, I could always pass off the trip as a whim, a summer jaunt without meaning. But when I was just starting out…? I didn’t think I could bear their questions and opinions following me up the road.