Table Mountain

When I was young, my best friend lived almost at the base of Table Mountain. We would hike out across the neighboring cow pastures, avoiding the herds and the rancher who roamed those fields in a jeep and seemed to always know when we hopped the fence and started toward the mountain. We had to do a lot of running, hiding, sticking to ditches and going for the cover of trees whenever we could just to keep out of site, and it was a lot of fun because we were addicted to the idea of the military and guerilla warfare, so we’d flash each other hand signals, deck ourselves out in camo fatigues and paint our faces like we were in the middle of some foreign jungle. Eventually, we’d get to the incline that foots the mountain, and then we’d climb the rocky face of Table Mountain by hand, with no ropes or equipment (We were young, sure footed and there were handholds every few feet) until we got to the top. Reaching the top of Table Mountain was pure bliss.

Up there, the sky seems to stretch on forever. You feel like you’re on a flat and mysterious island hovering thousands of feet over the rural countryside below. You can cut across the rocky ground to the other side of the mountain and see Malones Lake, which was so distant by car that it seemed almost mysterious to us as children, like another country beyond the borders of our own. There was a fig tree up there covered with torn bits of faded cloth tied to the branches, and a grave stone surrounded by pennies that seemed too sacred to touch, even as we laughed at the fact that the gravestone had been expertly carved with a picture of a pair of buttcheeks and a marijuana leaf. We would wander around up there for hours, always exploring, always finding something new. There was a place that clear, sweet water would gush out of the rock and pour itself down the side of the mountain in a narrow, cascading waterfall that we eventually followed to its impact point, only to discover that behind the waterfall was a small alcove of stone. I still have the unusual-looking, staff-like walking stick I found back there, impossibly ancient in appearance, weathered by time and water, with a crystal affixed somehow into the center of
what was probably originally a knot, as the staff seems to bow out into a rounded head at the top. Even today, Table Mountain instills me with a sense of joy and mystery, as if it belonged to another reality altogether, a place of exploration and bliss that would never fully reveal its secrets to anyone, a place which would always have some new treasure to impart every time you walked past the pastures and woods that served as gateways to this altogether different world.

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