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clouds of kilimanjaro

One of my very first memories was about travel.

My parents separated when I was just an infant and at the age of three I boarded a plane with my sister and mom to visit my dad in Texas.  It was my first time flying and I vaguely remember the large airport windows and the smell of diesel fuel.  But what really stuck out in my mind was believing that my dad lived in the clouds.

It was a completely logical conclusion for a three year old to make.  My mom told me we were going to see my dad but all I could see from the window of the plane were fluffy white clouds.  What else was I supposed to think?

Of course my assumption brought on more questions about my dad’s house in the sky: How did he get up there?  Why doesn’t he ever fall through the clouds?  Would I fall through the clouds?

I had a pretty active imagination when I young.

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro brought back that long-forgotten memory of my dad.  Each day we would hike under, through, and above the clouds to get to our next camp.  During the day fog would roll in around us, sometimes bringing misty rain, and we could barely see 20 feet in any direction.  An hour later the skies would be clear and we could see the peak of Kilimanjaro in all its snowy glory.

clouds of kilimanjaro

At night the skies were clear and we had spectacular views of the stars but we were always a little too cold and exhausted for star gazing.  But when we had our midnight trips to the bathroom (thank you Diamox) we couldn’t help but stare in wonder at the night sky.  I really regret not practicing my night photography before going on this trip.

clouds of Kilimanjaro
Image courtesy of Ren Yagolnitzer, a talented photographer and fellow climber

But mornings were by far my favorite time of the day.  Each morning when we awoke we could see puffy white clouds below our campsite, separating us from the towns far below.  It was a magical feeling, to be that high on the mountain, and no words could really do it justice.  Nothing could compare to mornings on Mount Kilimanjaro.

clouds of kilimanjaro
Image courtesy of Ren Yagolnitzer

I thought a lot about my dad while on the mountain.  He’s been gone almost 3 years now and there’s so much that I miss about him.  His Texas drawl mixed with Pennsylvania slang, his rough hands from working for years at a steel mill, his cowboy boots that he wore everywhere, even to my sister’s wedding.  When I finally reached Stella Point the first thing I did was pull out a laminated photo of me and my dad and pose with it in front of the large wooden sign.

clouds of kilimanjaro
I’m not angry, the sun was in my eyes

I remember when my father first passed away I had so many vivid dreams about him, dreams that he was young and healthy and happy.  Over the past 3 years those dreams lessened to only a few each year.  I wished so much that I could feel more of my dad’s presence and climbing a mountain did just that.  Since my dad’s death I had never felt so close to him as I did walking through the clouds of Kilimanjaro.

clouds of kilimanjaro

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