Outside of her home rose a steep but small mountain. She could run or ride her bike to the end of street, and race up to the top, if she chose to. It would take her less than a half hour. Most days she felt strong, sure-footed, and she liked nothing more than feeling wind in her hair and fillling up her lungs to yell as she ran so fast the surroundings on either side of her become blurry.
But, for some reason, she feared the mountain. It scared her, made her uneasy. She didn't know what it felt like to be that high up off the ground; had no knowledge of what she would see from the top. She was afraid her whole world would feel and look different from how she saw it every day. Instead of running up it, she would turn around and skip back to her house, back to the familiar paths that zig-zagged through her yard.
One night, her cheeks sun-kissed and her hair a tangle behind her, she sat at her usual perch as the sun set behind the mountain. She closed her eyes and felt the last light of the day fill up her chest. As her eyes opened to count the stars, they kept darting back to the mountain. Distracted, she tore her eyes away to go back to her usual routine. But she felt uneasy. Restless, unsure. What was the mountain saying to her?
Before she fall asleep, she made a promise to herself. And to the brightest star.
"Tomorrow morning, I am going to run up that mountain."
She said it out loud, in a resolute whisper, three times before closing her eyes. A satisfied smile stayed on her lips all night long.
The late summer morning dawned bright and cool as the girl opened her eyes. She recalled dreams of jagged peaks and bright beds of wildflowers, running free and looking down on a very small world and upward to a sky bigger than she imagined.
"The mountain!" she whispered, remembering.
She could barely sit still through her mom brushing her wild hair as she slurped down her bowl of cereal. Slipping on her shoes, the girl took off through the kitchen, bounded across the threshold, and ran to the end of her driveway.
The she stopped cold. The mountain seemed stranger, higher, than she remembered. She stood up tall, smoothed down her shorts, and took one step closer to her destination. And then another. She started to jog slightly, a glint in her eyes.
After about 100 yards, she stopped dead in her tracks.
"No," she whispered. "Not today."
So she turned around, and ran home as fast as she possibly could.
That night, she said her promise aloud once more, as she kept her gaze fixed on the stars.
"Tomorrow. Tomorrow I am going to climb that mountain."
The next day felt more like Fall than Summer as the girl pulled a sweatshirt over her head. With the same impatience, she tore out of the house. The breeze caught a strand of her hair out of her hat as she gained momentum.
She went 100 more yards, to the beginning of a sign that read "Summit Trail" before stopping suddenly. Her heart beat fast, too fast, and something she couldn't see weighed her down.
"No," she said in a huff, leaning against the pole to gain her breath back. "Not today. Tomorrow."
And she turned around, sneaking a few glances back, longingly, as she made her way home to safety.
On the third day, the girl bolted upright in bed. She woke up in near-light, her heart beating sure and steady.
"Today is the day," she said to no one in particular.
She dressed with care, ate her toast with precision. She felt bold and ready for whatever the day - and the mountain - might throw her way. As she opened the door, she caught sight of fluttery wings in her periphery vision. Surprised, she turned towards the movement until it eluded her again.
"Come back!" she yelled.
She followed the glimmers around her house, to the backyard bursting with plants. High above the fence, she saw them: two large, beautiful, perfectly white butterflies, hovering in the air as if waiting for her.
She paused, contemplating, and then broke out into a grin.
They broke rank and flew towards the front of the house - one to the left, the other slowly towards the right.
"Wait!" She cried, unable to contain her joy. "Where are you going?"
She ran across the yard and through the side gate, then down the path to her mailbox. There they were, catching the morning rays of sunshine in their wings, just above her eye level. She stopped, measuring them, wondering.
"Where are you taking me?" she asked in amazement.
As if on a cue and with a nod to each other, they took off higher in the air, then straight towards the mountain.
"Wait!" She cried, and started to sprint.
Crisscrossing each other's paths, those butterflies seemed to cheer her on. One would careen back towards her, while the other flew up, then down, then in a zig zag, down the street and past the trailhead sign.
She registered the words "Summit Trail" in her brain as she ran by, but her eyes stayed true on her guide. The second, slightly smaller butterfly hovered directly above her, as if urging her along.
She ran like the wind - like the girl in her dreams, traversing mountains and valleys and deserts - all the way up that trail, laughing.
"Slow down!" she cried to her butterfly guide.
"I'm coming!" She shrieked to her winged coach, who urged her along.
She ran as fast as she could, zig zagging up the path as it climbed closer to the sky. In what seemed like a moment of time, a moment of leaping and feeling and not thinking, she approached the top. She stopped suddenly, as suddenly as the butterflies landed, as if in a whisper, upon the sign.
"Summit Peak. Elevation: 2100 feet."
She opened her eyes wide, panting with effort, and looked around.
A feeling she had never experienced filled her up and reached every corner. She felt a tingling in her fingers, in her toes, in her heart, as she drank it in. She could see her house, her yard. She stared with wonder at the trail behind her - the path she had just taken. She looked down to the left, to the city strange yet familiar, and to the right - to more hills and houses and, further away, a larger mountain etched across the sky.
She counted swimming pools, wondered at tiny cars traveling down streets she knew well, yet now looked so foreign.
She lifted her face to the clouds. She closed her eyes and felt the wind lift her hair up and away from her hot neck - she opened them again to the sky, imaging her friends the stars being that much closer.
She felt a peace, elation, purpose.
Her butterflies fluttered near her head, as if waiting for affirmation. She smiled and outstretched her arms to feel the expanse of the world, high upon a mountaintop that meant the begininng of something new.
"Thank you," she said to the butterflies, with a little bow.
They took off , first upwards and then across her line of vision, before flying down the trail. She swept the view one more time with her wide-open, delighted eyes, before taking off after them.
Down the trail, pass the sign, across the street, and over the threshold into her little world, both familiar and completely bold and brand new.