It was hot, and I was grumpy. Even though it was only 8 o’clock in the morning, the sun was already starting to beat down, evaporating the night dew, and enveloping my family in a wispy, morning fog. I hated the heat, hated it the way it made the hairs on the back of my skin stand up, hated the way it clogged my pores. “Why are we here?” I grumbled, annoyance tinting my voice. I did not want to go outside because it was dirty and scary. You never knew when a mountain lion might push his head through the dense green foliage surrounding the path, and if it rained, the dirt trail would quickly turn into a mud pit, splashing dirty brown filth all over perfectly good fabric. Add to that the heavy backpack I had to carry, and it seemed I was in for a rather painful hike.
“I know you don’t want to be here, but why not try it out?” my mother asked, “Perhaps by the end of the hike you might gain a new appreciation for nature!” I sighed, but reluctantly started up the path. I may not always agree with my parents, but they were right: I did not go outside enough, and perhaps a hike up into the mountains was just what I needed to motivate myself to get some more exercise.
As we walked up the side of the mountain, the morning sun eventually started to fade as we approached the long, willowy trees that lined the path. An unintentional smile suddenly jumped to my face, but I brushed it off just as fast as it came. I did not want to give my mother and father the satisfaction of knowing that I was enjoying this. After all, I had not wanted to come to Taiwan in the first place! I knew that visiting my grandparents was important, but to me it seemed that going back every year was a little excessive. Even worse, to not miss school we had to go during the summer, which meant I could not hang out with my friends, which was usually one of the highlights of my year. I was always busy with cello practice, Boy Scouts, and volunteering so summer was the only time I could truly relax and hang out with my friends.
A sudden chirping noise distracted me from writing a mental argument to my parents about how this was unfair to me since I could not see my friends. I looked around confused, and then asked my dad where the bird was. His only response was to laugh, the sound bouncing off the craggy hills and back down to us. “Perhaps, if you spent more time looking around, instead of being grumpy, you might see the bird.” I sighed and rolled my eyes and continued walking upwards, left alone with my thoughts. Suddenly, my mother called out for me to wait. After asking her what was wrong, it turns out she and my little sister were tired. I sighed and replied, “See, I told you that this hike was a bad idea.” My mother just chuckled and said that me, my brother, and my dad should just head up to the summit instead. “We can meet you guys at the bottom of the hill and go look at the flowers!” my sister exclaimed. I nodded and turned to continue my journey up.
We kept climbing the peak for another hour. The scenery was gorgeous, the soft willows hanging over us, the mossy grey slopes rising towards the sun. I was in an almost trance-like state, mesmerized by the beauty around me. I saw an ant crawling up a log, his six little black legs glowing in the sunshine. I laughed suddenly and took a deep breath. I had not felt this free in a while, but then I suddenly paused. Why? Why would I feel this way here, on a trip that I did not even want to go on, in a country I did not even call home? I turned abruptly as my father called to me. “Your brother and I are too tired to continue; we can head down now.” I nodded, but to my surprise, I realized that I did not want to go down. I wanted to finish the climb, to be able to watch the sun set over a small island, surrounded by the aquamarine blue sea on all sides.
I turned to my dad and asked, “Is it ok if I go on ahead? The end of the trail is not too far ahead, and I really want to watch the sunset.”
He frowned, and thought for a second, but then nodded. “Go on ahead; try not to be down too late.” Smiling, I thanked him and ran up the mountain.
The higher I went, the harder it was to see anything. After just fifteen minutes, thick clouds enveloped me, and I could hardly see in front of me. I paused and wondered if I should go back. I had tried my best, and had gotten much higher than I thought I would, so why not turn back? As I asked myself that question, I realized something. Going up the mountain had shown me that sometimes, I should try and give things a chance. I did not come into this expecting to enjoy myself, but the more I walked, the more I got to watch the black winged ravens fly above me, touch the mottled grey stone next to me, smell the earthy aroma of the well-worn dirt path, filled with thousands of footprints. As I debated what to do, something caught my eye in the fog. I did not know what it was, but it was moving.
I froze in fear, but as it came into view, I burst into laughter. It was nothing but a pretty peacock, his long blue feathers decorated with bright yellow eyes in the center. “Hi little guy,” I said as I knelt near him, “What are you doing here?” The peacock merely turned his head at me, let out a low rustling noise, and walked no more than 5 feet away from me as he crossed the path. I would always treasure the moment our eyes met; I was reminded that we are all the same. We come from the same place and share common ancestors, and a long time ago we were no different than the peacock who had crossed my path that foggy summer day. I laughed, suddenly feeling free. I could not wait to go home and eat something good, but I also wanted to go on more trips, to see something I had not seen before, to be able to feel the thrill in the pit of my stomach as my world view changed. I turned and started down the mountain, excited to tell my mother all about my adventures that day.