Of Plums and Horizons — Part II

I awoke earlier than usual. It was my final day at the resort, and I knew that I wanted to make my last morning count—to go higher than I had dared go before. In habitual format, I ascended the same six sets of stairs to the fecund veranda at the resort’s meeting house. The Ritual of the Day’s First Plum had yet to be retired. I was certain that its performance was integral to overcoming my Himalayan psychic block.

 

Over my days at the resort, the brown mountains continued to trouble me. I first thought their effect on me a fluke: more of a personal issue of an inability to reflect on myself and my experiences than a fault of nature. I assured myself I was being a bit silly. Surely, a whole mountain range couldn’t have it out for me.

 

Then, the fourth morning happened. Plum sacrificed and chai in hand, I turned around from my vantage point on that fateful day to find the brown mountains sneering at me. Where I had once seen benevolence, I now found malice. Where I once perceived hopeful, if hazy, swirls, I now saw only fear and chaos. The mountains had gone from friendly giants in the sky to menacing behemoths holding me in place, containing my imagination. Where I once saw hope on the horizon, I now found only confusion.

 

Every morning the sensation got worse. Each day I would perform the plum ritual, hoping that this would be the day that my future would clear for me again—that the mountains would go back to the way they were. Unfortunately, they never changed. They clouded my judgment, and made me feel frantic about the uncertainty that lay in my immediate future. They seemed an impenetrable earthy wall of doubt.

 

I had decided my last night at the resort that I was going to stare the brown mountains down. That I would climb as high as I could and force them to return to the comforting horizon they once were. On my final morning, I would reclaim my future. So, sacrifice consumed, stone thrown, I began my auroral meanderings. After some time, and two plums consumed, I reached what I thought to be the highest vantage point my provisions and the trails would allow. I put the last plum to my mouth and turned around with my eyes closed. Slowly, with as much courage as I could muster, I allowed my eyes to open.

 

The brown mountains of the horizon had already poked their way into their full erect existence. I was crestfallen. There they were again. Not even concerned with shrouding themselves in their usual mists and fogs, they flaunted their blunt nudity before me. I was shaken for a second. But, with a bite of juicy flesh, my resolve returned, and I became determined to not let them win.

 

I trained all my attention on them. I searched every crevasse, every swoop, every tumble. I looked at their bases and their tips. I wanted to scrutinize every bit of them, certain that I could uncover a chink in their armor. I pulled my lens back until I was confronted with a horizon full of zig-zagging brown. The ups and downs became almost hypnotic. I began following the ridgeline from side to side, hopping from peak to peak. It then that I noticed something strange. Something off about them. Specifically, around their edges. Where the brown ended, the sky became a strange, steely grey. A stern, unforgiving color at odds with the azure dominating the rest of the expanse.

 

I raised the last bit of plum to my mouth. At the precise moment my front teeth sank through flesh and into stone to clean the fruit, the clouds above them parted. It took several seconds before my brain was finally able to put together the reflections of light before me. The stern grey outline of the brown horizon was not an atmospheric issue. In fact, the issue was the brown horizon. Joy erupted through my being. I could barely contain a shout of triumph. The brown mountains had lost.

 

What I had thought was an earthy background to my morning tableaux was actually a swaggering middleground. On an average day, the vagaries of water and temperature caused mists to form below and clouds to form above them, right at the tips of their dark brown peaks. Thus, said peaks were able to charade most of the time as the horizon, the biggest thing around, the top of the world. But, in reality, they were but a bowl of plums compared to what I now saw behind them.

 

Soaring, peaking, reaching farther than I thought possible into the nitrogenous vault of heaven were the largest mountains I had ever seen in my life. The stone in my hand dropped softly to the earth below as I stared in awe at the snow-covered peaks that now dominated the horizon. Not the brown mummer I had allowed to trouble me for the last few days, but the true horizon: double, if not triple the size of the dun-colored dwarfs in front of them. Cold, foreboding, ominous, the height of these true Himalayas forced their way into my mind. I could hear the tectonic plates grinding together, pushing ever up and up to see just how far the mother could reach without waking the father.

 

Every morning, as I had eaten my plums and ruminated on my life—past, present, and future—I had kept my eyes trained on the brown peaks of what I thought was the horizon. But, this morning, without seeking my permission, the horizon had changed. I realized that it was not the brown mountains that had been dogging me for days, it was my own insecurities. I was afraid of the possibilities I saw in the mists. So, I had created an adversary, an excuse. For a week, I had subconsciously willed the brown mountains to scare me into meekness, submission.

 

As I stared at the snow-capped peaks that now showed me the true rim of my existence, I realized how futile my attempts to constrain myself had been. How, with one glorious showing, nature had shattered my best attempts at self-sabotage, cleared my vision, and set me gently back down on the right path. Standing there, looking at the gleaming peaks above my former earthy foes, I was filled with an expanding sense of hope.

 

I had much still left to learn, whether about plums or mountains. But, most importantly, I realized that my concept of reality could change in an instant. That it was a malleable thing. That horizons really can expand. That the false enemies I create can be vanquished by a power outside my control. And, for that reason, I should spend less time trying to augur my future and spend more time making it into what I want it to be.

 

As I reached the table for my second helping of plums that final morning, I knew that my reality had indelibly changed. I knew the secret of the true horizon. I knew that just because I couldn’t see how big the bowl was, I could still trust that it would hold all the fruits of my future that I wanted to put into it. It turned out that the brown horizon was but a waterline for my everyday experiences. The real limit of my possibilities lay in the clouds.

Caleb's interest in education policy began during university after he spent a summer in Jaipur studying Hindi on a Critical Language Scholarship from the U.S. Department of State. Following his childhood dream of becoming a lawyer, Caleb went to law school to practice public interest law. Always searching for ways to integrate education policy into his legal studies, Caleb worked as a legal intern at the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, where he investigated complaints of federal civil rights violations at educational institutions across the Southeast. During his time reading law, Caleb also worked as a certified legal intern at The University of Alabama School of Law Civil Law Clinic, which provides legal representation to traditionally underserved populations in the community. Caleb is excited to work at LAMP‰, finally putting his legal research and writing abilities to use in the Indian education policy field by creating legal workshops for LAMP-affiliated organizations.

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