How beauty changes us

The summer of 2012–we’re right in the thick of it, the dog days.

Every year, instead of making a new year’s resolution, I come up with more of a theme or overall feeling I’d like the year to bring, and I usually try to make it catchy or sing-songy. For example, 2009 was “2009-it’s travel time” and I spent the summer studying in Italy. Yeah, I know, kinda lame, but it’s fun. For 2012, I came up with “2012-be by yourself”…kind of a stretch of a rhyme, but if you’ve read my other posts you know that I’ve stayed true to that theme pretty well.

I very well could have called 2012 the year of seeing really beautiful things, but I didn’t know how to make that rhyme or almost rhyme so I just had to remember it. And once I think about it, being by yourself brings you to see beautiful things, so I guess it all works out in the end just fine.

I left my house in California on April 24th. Every day since then, I have been surrounded by natural beauty. Not the subtle kind of beauty you have to squint your eyes to see, but the in your face, big and bold and magnificent kind of nature that makes your eyes wide and gets you really quiet.

I have seen aqua-clear rivers and raging waterfalls that speak in tongues of power and constancy, cold alpine lakes–water heals the past; and trees, trees that grow stronger as they live longer–trees remind us that our past is something we can grow off of, that we live in families and can be sheltered by their canopy; mountains! that are red, snow-capped, mountains that are jagged, pushed up from the earth standing at over 14,000 feet–mountains give perspective, that we are small but no less divine than something large; and I’ve seen rocks: granite, limestone, sandstone, conglomerate, rocks that have made me bleed and made me fall on my ass and so sore that I can’t squeeze shampoo out of the bottle–rocks tell us that change can be microscopic but result in something real and solid, that I am strong, but not that strong, to give respect and let go of ego.

I didn’t really know why I wanted to do this, but I knew I had to. I didn’t know what I would find, but I knew it would be good. I had to go climbing, and really, climbing is responsible for all of the beauty that I have been seeing.

Natural beauty has weird effects on modern day humans. When we see something beautiful, we can feel afraid, of its undeniable power, but also comforted, because we are home. We feel wild, disconnected from other people because our cell phones don’t get service and we haven’t seen anyone for miles, but we also feel more connected than ever, because this is who we are. We are challenged, the beauty pulls things, memories, out of the deep and dark parts of us and it’s hard, but we know it’s good for us. After a while we crave the comfort of a bed, a roof, a restaurant, but when we give in it doesn’t satisfy much, and not for long.

There is no better feeling than laying down in your bed, your tent, or your van after a day of being outside. Your blood and brain are filled with fresh oxygen, and the stale air of the city has been exhaled out. Lungs satisfied. Muscles pleasantly tired. Heart loud.

Your body has spent the day doing what it was made to do–move. And your mind, too, goes back to its natural state of observing what this moment is all about–instead of thinking, worrying, stressing, judging.

Days like that change us. When we are surrounded by beauty, it makes us want to be more beautiful too. Not like go back to your house and put on makeup and some sexy little number kind of beauty, or just have to lose those last five pounds beauty, but the real kind–the kind that makes us want to be a good person. However we may define that.

For the past three months, I have been surrounded by crazy beauty every day. The other day I was on the banks of the Animas river with my Dad, and he asked me what I’ve learned this summer. I have learned that I am capable of being 100% self-reliant. That I will be okay, no matter what happens or what I lose or how bad it hurts or how weak I feel–I am okay. We all are.

I have learned what I want–to climb, to do yoga, to write, to hear good music, to travel, to be with my family and friends, to love someone who makes me feel like I do when I’m outside: challenged, wild, free, connected, sensitive, someone who will love me back with the intensity that I give to them. I want movement, good beer, chia seeds, a pup and a kitty, a little house with a garden and a front porch. I’ve learned that I would really love to be a Mama, in the (quite distant) future.

But that if I don’t get any of those things, I will be okay.

I’ve learned what I don’t want–big cities, Keystone Light, a big house and a fancy car, hangovers, skyscrapers, traffic, to be offended so easily, jealousy, lights so bright that I can’t see the stars, to make assumptions, to be a crazy bitoch that hurts other people when I’m is hurting, fast food, fast anything, dishonesty, having to drive over 2 hours to the nearest rocks, not enough space, people who don’t appreciate things, styrofoam cups.

But that if those things come into my life, I will be okay.

The beauty that I have been living in is responsible for these realizations, for how much better I know myself. Pushing myself and accepting challenges is all I have been doing, and yeah, I’m tired at the end of the day, but it’s worth it. Everything, every situation, decision, word you speak, is a chance to act like the person you want to be. Being in gorgeous nature will inspire you to keep accepting the challenges, to do the hard work, to muster up some gumption and just do the damn thing.

Thank God for rock climbing.