In Oslo, there are a lot of hills. For me, as a Dane, who is used to living on a flat pancake with minor bumps (our tallest “mountain” is 173 m), it’s rough going. Naturally, there are stairs in some place. And that’s what I want to talk about.
I want to share with you a step-by-step journey up one of these staircases. Mundane and unremarkable for those who do it day after day, but for me it kickstarted my thinking. I also may have gone a bit overboard and am maybe overdramatising a bit for emphasis. Just a tiny bit, mind you!
But now, I invite you to join me, as I walk you through this magical experience. ;-)
You know where you are going. Google Maps has been your guide, and you see that you need to go right somewhere before the intersection. A friend has told you about “a crazy staircase you need to climb there”, but you can’t see it. Despite that, you’re confident. It’s nearby, and how hard can it be to find?
But you don’t see it. Yet. This is where you step off the beaten path of the well-known. You look up from phone, and with a gut-wrenching feeling you’re snapped into the here and now. The familiar fades into the background, and your sense go on high alert. You’re entering new territory, and you know that an adventure is about to begin.
This is it. It’s about to get real.
Your map tells you that you need to take a path that looks slightly off. It looks like an entry to a backyard parking lot, and there are no stairs in sight. You don’t really trust the info you’re getting from your senses, but recall the smile on the face of your friend who said “When you find it, you’ll think you’re in the wrong place. You’re not.”
True words indeed, and they make you soldier on instead of questioning reality. Yet that nagging little voice in the back of your mind is there. Watching. Judging. Waiting. You’ve opened the wardrobe to Narnia, and while you see only fur coats, you can’t really make out what lies beyond.
You need to know. You need to continue.
This looks weird. It’s definitely the backyard parking lot you thought it was, and you are seriously doubting whether you’ve taken a wrong turn. You still don’t see any stairs, and you’re questioning yourself now.
Was your friend joking? Are you now the laughing stock of someone, somewhere? Has your whole life been built on lies? Who is at fault, and how? Is anyone?
What does it all even mean?
Vindication! It exists! There actually is a staircase, carved into the mountainside itself. Ok, maybe more of hillside, but I’m Danish, remember. It’s there, though. All doubts forgotten, your hopes are renewed and you gain a new lease on life.
Your friend wasn’t lying. Your trust in the universe and humankind has returned. You’re part of a loving community, where people share things with each other, and not just a black hellhole where deception is the order of the day.
You let out a sigh of relief, and start your ascent.
You’ve walked for what feels like miles and must be double that. There is no end in sight. You have always been on these stairs. You will always be here, like a modern day Sisyphos, pushing an imaginary stone upwards, step by step.
There is no Oslo. No world. No intellect. Just you, and the staircase. The pain is visceral. The lungs you now curse are bursting, and you’re ready to lie down and give in to despair. How did you make the mistake of starting this? What could possibly be worth going up these stairs? Nothing.
Yet, your will keeps you moving, one slow step at a time.
You round a corner, and for a moment all fatigue leaves your tired muscles. Endorphine kicks in. You see it. The top. It’s there. It’s real. Suddenly it seems to be possible. You’re a survivor. You’ve got what it takes. You can make it!
Digging deep within to access resources you didn’t know you had, you lumber on. Each step feels lighter and each breath less ragged. You begin to count. 17. 16. 15 stairs left. You’re almost there. 14. 13. Success is within reach.
12. 11. 10. 9. A short break. 8. 7. Just a little more. 6. 5. 4. 3. 2. You almost take the last stairs two at a time, but stop yourself with a rueful inner laugh. No sense in getting giddy. It’s not like you climbed Mount Everest, after all, though it certainly feels like it. 1.Victory. You step onto the path, and grin foolishly to yourself. You did it. You really did it.
You have arrived.
The gravel path beckons you forward. The stairs are behind you. The path of Cirith Ungol has been climbed, but for you there’s no giant spider waiting ahead. You’re safe. The worst is over. And both your mind and body know it.
Slowly, you return to a more relaxed state. Your heavy breathing becomes even and soft. Your hyper-active senses pull in their over-extended antennae. You’re no longer aware of every single sound, movement and smell. You’ve left the danger. You’ve won the war.
It feels calming, but also exhausting. Just as it should.
The last thing you do before leaving is look back. Back at the stairs, that don’t look nearly so bad from up here. Back at the city below you, which shines bright in the soft rays of the winter sun. The world is beautiful. You are beautiful. Everything is connected.
As you stand there, pondering the majestic vista laid out before you, your mind starts wandering. If you could do this, you can do it again. Maybe you can also climb an even taller staircase. Maybe you could even climb a hill with NO staircase. Maybe. A smile curls your lip. The world is your oyster. Now is the time to dream.
And who knows where dreams leads us?
*NOTE: Of course, all of this started as me humorously telling a good friend about the stair experience while we were going through it. And when I reached the top, I realised that I should write this post. And yes, I went down and did it all again (alone), so I could get the pictures. And you know what? It wasn’t bad at all the second time. ;-)
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