This is going to be a really me-centered, blahblahblah kind of post, feel free to skip over it. I just need to get it out, for myself.
I slept outside, under the full moon, it was so bright that I didn’t need a headlamp to find my toothbrush and I walked through the campground at midnight, vision unobstructed. Stars speckled the horizons but the usual display of night sky in the Eastern Sierras was overpowered by moonlight. It was never dark this weekend. Not once.
I have been eyeing a certain climb in the Buttermilks for the past two seasons. I would stand along side the boulder, look up at her face, see the moves, crave the moves, prepare to climb. And then, someone, whether it was a friend or a stranger, would say something. You sure you wanna climb that? It’s in the sun you should just wait until it goes in the shade. Be very careful, it’s not straightforward. The holds aren’t as good as they look. Why don’t you just go find something else to climb? Wait until next season. Don’t do that climb. Please don’t do that climb.
And then, the butterflies start, the adrenaline throbs in my head and I feel light, my fingers pulse, self doubt comes in waves that just get stronger and heavier, maybe they’re right, maybe I’m not strong enough, maybe I should just go find something else, maybe I’m crazy, maybe I’m being cocky, maybe I’m just trying to show off, maybe I’ll freak out up there, maybe I need to wait, maybe I should stick to the climbs I know really well, maybe I should just stop with this rock climbing nonsense all together…
But the truth is, before I heard any of these external warnings, I was not afraid. I was confident and calm. I knew I could do the route, easily. I knew it the deepest part of my core that I was strong enough. I was also aware that this was well within my physical and mental limits, and that I wasn’t being careless or somehow disrespectful to myself or the rock by doing the climb. But for two years I didn’t do this route that I wanted so badly, and I definitely can’t blame the people who tried to talk me out of it–I’m the one that let their words take away my power. I could have told them, thanks for your concern but I’ve got this.
It is still so bright when I close my eyes, moonlight is filtered through my eyelids and I’m wishing they were more opaque. I pull my wool hat down to the bridge of my nose, finally some amount of darkness. I sleep. Immediately I dream. I dream of the route, of her movement. My mind is quiet but bright and I’m breathing. I wake the next morning and know, I have to do the route.
I climbed the route the next day. I wish I could write you all a sentence that’s more epic than “I climbed the route”, I wish I could tell you that it was something nerve-wracking and scary and that I had to be brave, but the truth is that it was fairly uneventful–I wasn’t scared and it felt very easy. I breathed well, took it slow, and had fun. I didn’t think, I kept moving, I felt quiet, I felt bright, my lungs filled and emptied with ease, I fell back in love with rock climbing. I was reminded again of why I climb, as cheesy as that sounds. I love things that are high and within my limit, airy and perplexing, I like thoughtful routes, committing moves, movement that makes you breathe, that makes you curious, I like climbing outside. I have felt so weak recently, pushing myself in the gym with…let’s face it, a finger injury, and on routes that, let’s face it, I’m not at all excited by. I had been feeling weak and uninspired, and I wondered why?
Thank God for Bishop, for always getting me repsyched and recentered, for getting me organized and realigned with the kind of climbing that I want to be doing, the kind of living I want to be doing.
I wake up early on our last morning, the sun rises and the moon sets, they are opposite each other. The sun over the Whites and the moon over Mt Tom. The light dilates my pupils, I keep looking at the moon, then to the sun, back to the moon again. How I’ve missed this place. How I’ve missed the mountains. How I’ve missed climbing and the feeling it gives me, quiet but so bright. All things get illuminated, even the shitty stuff, in the open and accepted as part of it. There is no hiding here, everything is open and breathing and part of you, there is no closing your eyes. It doesn’t help. This is what’s working, this is what’s not, this is where you’re messing up, how you’re holding yourself back, it is all you, no one else, be responsible, you haven’t climbed a route in two years because you’re holding yourself back, here’s where you’re strong and this is where you suck, but even the darkest part of you–it’s totally okay and it’s still beautiful and you’re okay.
I’m finally okay with letting go of the past summer and all of the changes that it brought. And I’m a little late, but I’m ready for the fall, for the winter. For once when I say that it feels true, when I wrote that it felt right, it feels calming and I’m breathing, it doesn’t scare me, it feels easy to reread, like I want it to feel, like it should feel, like I deserve to feel, yeah, I’m ready. Finally.