I didn’t lose my breath until I started to make my way back down. Everything at the top was peaceful, if not a little anticlimactic. It was off-season, so there were no tents set up. The only thing elevated above the barren plain was a hulking, misshapen rock, bearing a weather-beaten banner with worn writing scrawled across it: “Everest Base Camp.”

Over a year had transpired since, and yet, this moment was all I could think about as I clung desperately to an uncooperative cliff face, suspended high above the ground with mere footholds to support me. This alone was capable of capturing the beauty of the phenomenon, the sheer brilliance of being isolated and desperate. Recognizing that my hands would give out long before I summited, I decided to make my way westward to an overhang protruding from the rock. After a moment’s respite, I resumed my ascent, and as the peak opened up, I saw it before me: the Owa Daim Shrine.

It’s always like this. The end of the odyssey is quiet and sublime. As I bore witness to the curious sanctum, something clicked. I couldn’t feel the bite of cold air. My hair sat neatly, undisturbed by the wind. I could see the shrine, and I could hear life’s natural score, but I couldn’t smell the grass jutting out from the crevices cracking the crag. It didn’t matter. Although it was just for a moment, the peak of Breath of the Wild’s sierra reminded me of how I felt when I physically pulled myself up a Himalayan mountain.

I remember gazing upon faraway forests from atop the Great Wall of China, observing the world below in silence. Like a portal to a painted world, the trees stood distant but almost tangible, surreal and yet there, corporeal and breathing. It reminded me of a poem by Sylvia Plath: “I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead / I lift my lids and all is born again.”

At this moment, while we are besieged in our homes by a pandemic, our surroundings are sufficiently mundane as to make Plath’s surreal blink seem impossible and far away. And yet, at this moment, I am struck by a vague, unplaceable sense of familiarity. The conscious act of remaining upright and steady is visceral and consuming. It is best to focus on the inclines, which are not steep, and the obstacles, which are not cruel.


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