Sitting On Top of the World

When is a cheese sandwich not a cheese sandwich?

No, it’s not a riddle, it’s the opening line to a piece I wrote when I was in Mexico in 2006.

I had gone to the mountains for the weekend, to the Sierra Norte in Oaxaca (the state I was living in for 3 months).

I went on a long hike through the mountains and the woods, accompanied by a local guide.  We ended up at a spot with a huge panoramic view over the countryside, and I felt like I was on top of the world.

Sitting on top of the world, Llano Grande, Sierra Norte

This is what I wrote at the time:

When is a cheese sandwich not a cheese sandwich?

When it’s a Mexican torta, made from ever so slightly toasted bread, two halves of a roll laid flat on the warm top of the oven, insides spread with beans, stringy ‘quesillo’ cheese from Oaxaca, then layers of tomato, onion, lettuce, avocado, and a couple of slices of chili.

When you´re having a picnic in strong alpine sunshine in the Sierra Norte on the last Saturday in November.

When you’ve travelled 2 and a half hours in the bus to get to Llano Grande and walked for 2 and a half hours to get to this rock.

When you’re perched on the rock looking out across pueblitos, woods, mountains, high above the clouds, sitting on top of the world.

And what do I learn, now, from re-reading those words?

That I am glad I took myself off to Mexico, away from the busy world of work I used to inhabit, to start something new.  The start of my hero’s journey.

That you don’t have to climb to the top of a mountain to feel like you’re sitting on top of the world.  The shift in perspective, the knowledge that you’re somewhere special, the awareness you have of the distance you’ve travelled… can create the same effect.

That it’s important to capture the details of an experience.  When I re-read those words, I can taste that sandwich.  I can feel myself there, on that rock, in that strong alpine sunshine and cold November air.  I feel the sense of wonder once again.

That travelling to these far flung corners and high up places is what got me started on this writing journey.  It’s when I first learned how to construct and frame a post.

That words can transport us.  And although I sometimes give myself a hard time about it, I’m glad that I write.


This post is a contribution to the Middle Zone Musings Group Writing Project: What I Learned from a Mountaintop Experience.  Thanks once again to Robert Hruzek for running this project and giving us the chance to share our words and stories with each other.

You are very welcome to join in, just make sure your entry is posted by this Sunday (7 June).

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8 Responses to “Sitting On Top of the World”

  1. On June 5, 2009 at 8:55 am Lillie Ammann responded with... #


    That is quite a mountaintop experience! The photo is fabulous, and so is the post.

    Lillie Ammanns last blog post..Shadow Forest Authors

  2. On June 5, 2009 at 12:19 pm Fred H Schlegel responded with... #

    “That it’s important to capture the details of an experience. ” I have photos of my hikes in the Rockies but no journal. That is something I regret as memory gets slippery. Your travels sound exhilarating.

  3. On June 5, 2009 at 2:04 pm Robert Hruzek responded with... #

    There’s just something about these places that stick with us always, eh, Joanna? The smell of the air, the bright sunshine, the warmth of the rock beneath you… that pesky horsefly that won’t leave you alone…

    I love those moments because they’re so easy to recreate whenever we want. And we can keep learning from them, every time.

    Thanks for takin’ us to the top with ya this time! Tip o’ the hat to ya!

  4. On June 7, 2009 at 6:35 pm Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Lillie, I’m glad you enjoyed it.

    Fred, you’ll probably find the memories come flooding back with the photos… never too late to write it up if you want to :-)

    Robert, thanks for the inspiration to get group writing again - need to get back into some good bloggin’ habits!

  5. On June 8, 2009 at 5:52 pm wilson responded with... #

    Joanna, did you feeling scare, when you’re reached and sat on the peak of the mountain? I loved the greenish scenery, where it looks like a green and peaceful paradise for me…

    wilsons last blog post..Make Sure Your Children’s Clothing Are Not Too Sexy!

  6. On June 9, 2009 at 12:41 am Terro responded with... #

    Now that sandwich does sound interesting…what a treat to carry up above the clouds!

  7. On June 9, 2009 at 9:48 pm Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    wilson here’s the secret - it looks really high up, but actually it was just a short scramble after a long hike. Kind of a cheat’s way to sit on top of the world ;-) You’re right, the greenery is great - lovely for me coming from Scotland too…

    Terro sometimes the simple things really are the best aren’t they?



  1. Middle Zone Musings » All Entries: What I Learned From a Mountaintop Experience - June 8, 2009

    [...] Sitting on Top of the World, by Joanna Young at Confident Writing [...]

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