Sunday, August 06, 2006
Susan Butcher died yesterday. No, she was not a relative or close friend. In fact, I never met her. But I do know a few things about her. She was the second female to win the 1,100 mile Iditarod dog-sled race in 1986 and won it 4 years in a row. She finished in the top four the next three years. She also was part of the first team in 1979 to drive a sled-dog team to the 20,320 foot summit of Mt. McKinley. Now those last few sentences included several numbers. You likely read past them quickly. I invite you to sit still a minute and think about 1,100 miles of truly rugged wilderness from Anchorage to Nome and how far that is. And when we speak of the height of mountains, I suspect that most folks would hardly notice whether the number was 2000 feet or 20,000 feet. Mt. McKinley is the tallest mountain in North America and I have seen in from a small plane on a flight-seeing tour. There is no town nearby, no place to get off the glacier and warm for a while. It is rugged beyond what most of us can imagine. When you pause, the numbers become more significant. Here is the one that struck me with the greatest impact; she was 51. Again, if you have never been there it probably seems remote and a great distance from where you are now. I am 52. From here 51 seems very young.