fragmented thoughts about recently

It is the last day of January and I am thinking about rock climbing, 2014, and if it will ever rain again in California.

I haven’t climbed outside in almost a month, but my body is more sore now than it was when I climbed every day for two weeks straight last summer in Wyoming.

While I’m here, I try to take advantage of what the Bay Area has to offer–making money, seeing friends, resting, eating really good food, and training in the climbing gym (explains the soreness). I still don’t know if training in the gym actually makes me a stronger climber, but it can’t hurt (well, yes it can…), and more than anything I just want to climb something, even if it’s on plastic surrounded by shirtless bros who wear too much cologne.

But man, do I miss it all.

God do I miss real rock. God do I miss the mountains. God do I miss the stars and knowing what phase the moon is in. I miss being on top of a boulder, on the side of a face, on the road, on a ledge eating lunch. I miss looking at topos by headlamp, scabbed fingers pointing to belay stances and cruxes. I even miss alarms set for 4am, sleeping in parking lots, and making coffee on a tailgate.

So why am I here? Well, there are a lot of reasons.

I had the flu or some version of a cold for about a week. And wow–whatever it is going around is pretty gnarly. I haven’t felt that sick since I was a little girl. I hope all of you are well, take care of yourselves! Here’s the tea I chugged all week that made me feel a lot better. You could also add some turmeric to the mix for an extra boost.

I stayed in bed for a few days, watched movies about climbing and read articles about climbing, I talked to all of my friends who are climbing and begged them to tell me about their days. I wrote lists of climbs I want to do this year, places I want to visit, I schemed and dreamed with my friends about trips to take, climbs to send.

More often than not, when Ethan and I are together and not climbing, we are talking about climbing. We tend to lay in bed at night and get psyched out of our minds on certain climb, wall, or continent. Once one of us mentions anything even remotely close to climbing a rock, it’s over. Lots of OH MY GOD WE HAVE TO CLIMB THAT and other high pitched noises. When I finally do fall asleep, all I dream of is climbing and lots of air under my feet.

Spain. France. The Cirque of the Unclimbables. Lotus Flower Tower. Canada. Half Dome. El Cap. The Winds. The Diamond. The Needles. The Rostrum. Mesothelioma. Everything in Joshua Tree. Mt Tom. Smith. Ten Sleep. The Red. The New. Apparently I’ll love Hueco. Joe’s. Maple. Patagonia. Little Rock City. Rumbling Bald. Devil’s Tower.

So, I guess this is me, after not climbing for one little month. Great.

I think what I miss the most, even more than the act of climbing itself, is learning.

I have learned a lot over the past few years, but one concept keeps coming up for me, more so than the others. In yoga, we’re told that at the root of who we are, once you remove all the superficial layers of personality, thoughts, judgement, opinions, experiences–that only one thing is left: love. It is what we are made of. When we don’t know how to express that love, or are too fearful to express that love, we get sick. And I don’t mean with the flu. Our bodies turn toxic, our thoughts become negative, we resort to feeling sorry for ourselves, feeling guilty, feeling sad. Maybe we only see the worst in people, maybe we start drinking a lot or not appreciating a perfectly beautiful day. We do these things only when we aren’t recognizing what we are made of. You MUST express that you are made of love, somehow! Show it through your work, your play, by loving yourself or another person. This is not a choice. You must do this, or else you will start to die. Maybe not physically, but your soul or your spirit or your heart or whateverthehell you wanna call it will die. And at that point, well…

Your soul will fight like hell to stay alive. You’ll start drinking or drugging or being mean, being depressed and flipping people off on the freeway. All because you aren’t acting in accordance to what inside of you. Those negative actions are just your soul’s last desperate attempts to express love, except it’s wrapped up in this armor of extended middle fingers and tequila. Do yourself a favor. Peel off the mask of anger and hatred and self-loathing. That’s all just bullshit. Just go be in love. Drink it in. Live in that stuff. It’s already inside of you, it’s what you’re made of it after all.

So yes, it may be the last day of January, but the season is still ripe for resolutions and planning out the year. In case you don’t know how to do this whole “acting like you’re made of love” hippie yoga teacher stuff, here, I wrote you a little guide to use throughout this year. This was originally written for a different publication, I think I have to say that legally or something, but they edited the shit out of it and then said to redo it and make it less “bloggy” so I decided to just post it on here instead.

May you wear sundresses in the spring and sleep outside in the summer, I hope you pick pears when the fall comes and may your winter be about being together. I hope you write a love letter on Valentine’s Day and I hope it’s to yourself. May Easter remind you of when you were just a child. May you be with your best friends on the 4th of July. Dress up on Halloween. Spend Thanksgiving and the winter holidays listening to the Beach Boys. May you not celebrate any of these days if you don’t want to. Please don’t stop eating oatmeal cookies or salted caramel ice cream. But this year, please don’t eat as you’re standing in your kitchen or running out the front door. Bake the cookies, give some away. Eat them without watching TV. Spoon out the ice cream, sit on the couch with someone you like. Pass the bowl back and forth. Sing in your car. I hope you go swimming and make enchiladas, I hope you read really good books and have sweet dreams. Happy early birthday. May you do things that remind you of your divinity. May you always tell the truth. May you confess. I hope that when you aren’t sure if you’ve known someone long enough to hug them yet, that you hug them. May you rest. May you rest often and deep. May you hang out with yourself. Remember that day you spent at the lake, I hope you have more days like that. I hope someone falls asleep on your shoulder. Don’t forget to write thank you notes. Visit your sister. Don’t stop dancing in your undies. May you ride shotgun in a convertible. Go skinny dipping. Go to a very serious yoga class and get the giggles. I hope you spend some time under the moon and notice how she changes. Try something new and be really bad at it. Throw someone a surprise party. Please don’t stop telling that one joke you always tell. Don’t stop being weird. Forgive yourself. May you let any sad experiences make you more tender, may your heart and eyes be forever open, may you be gentle with yourself and all the other people that are difficult to be gentle with. Strive to be kind. Resolve to have fun.

So that’s where I’m at these days. Feeling a little stuck in the Bay and really wanting to go climbing, but despite all of those small matters, I am ridiculously happy right now.

who gave you permission?

I did some personal writing today but I thought I’d share this little snip with you all. Natalie Goldberg asks us this–who gave you permission to be a writer? Here is one small moment of my answer to that question.

My legs push down on the pedals of my bike as I speed along a root-ridden trail that curves through the pines. A cloud of gnats hover head-height in the middle of the trail ahead of me, they glow golden with the afternoon light. I hold my breath and close my eyes tight as I whoosh through them. Their cloud doesn’t disperse, just changes shapes.

It is my second year in south Georgia. It is August.

The older students stand in a circle by the Coke machine, laughing loudly and smoking cigarettes. It’s the second week of classes and I don’t know their names yet, but I do know that half of them are published writers, and the other half easily could be if they gave a damn. To me, they are all brilliant.

I lock up my bike and walk toward the classroom door, holding my notebook against my chest.

Hey! Georgie, right? You’re the girl from CaliforniaI hear someone say. I stop, look back at them and they’re all looking at me–guess I’m the only Georgie around after all. I slowly walk over to their circle, they rearrange to make room.

Yeah, I’m Georgie. That’s all I find myself able to say.

One of the seniors puts his arm around me. His cigarette comes close to my unruly, wind-blown hair so he reaches across me and switches it to his other hand.

This girl right here y’all, this girl is a poet. His smile is obscured because his mouth tightens on the cigarette as he takes a long drag.

Is that so? one of the girls asks, nodding and wide eyes. She’s just a junior but she’s already had a few short stories published locally.

Oh, me? No. I give a nervous laugh and shake my head. No, no I’m not, I wouldn’t even call myself a writ–

The senior waves his hand to quiet me, the smoldering end of his cigarette glows brighter as air courses through the tobacco. He leans forward, toward the middle of the circle, and interrupts me.

She read one of her free writes out loud in class the other day. ‘Course she had to be forced to read the damn thing, she never volunteers. But you better believe it, she started reading and we were all lookin’ round at each other with these eyes like, yep, that right there is a poet. 

He throws the last of his cigarette on the ground as he says the last words. The gesture made it known that the conversation was over, like there was no more reason to discuss this, no more time to waste on something that was so obvious and true. And there sure as hell wasn’t any room for me to keep on denying it.

He presses his converse sneaker into the ground, pinning the cigarette against the cement.

Well alright then, one of the other girls says. It’s 5, y’all. Lets go in. They put out their cigarettes, and we walk into the classroom together. 

Who gave you permission to be what you are? What are you not being because no one has given you permission yet? Have you ever become something without permission from anyone else? Is that even possible? Permission is such an interesting part of being a human. The story is always a good one.

My new year’s wishes for you

I can’t believe it, but it’s been over a month since I last posted on this blog. How did that happen? Are the holidays really over? Since when is it not October?

With the exceptions of Christmas and a few days of work, all I have done since you last heard from me is climb.

We started in Joshua Tree. For me, each climbing area has a word. For example: Yosemite’s word is big, Ten Sleep is fun, The Red is power, Tahoe is chill, Bishop is magic, to name a few. But Joshua Tree is different. Although I love what every crag has to offer, sometimes I find myself wishing their words were more like Josh’s.

Joshua Tree’s word is freedom.

Nothing about Joshua Tree makes sense. The landscape is so drastically different from anywhere else in the world–the twisted, gnarled Joshua trees that give the national park its name are just the beginning of its mystery. If you look closely, there is an impossible amount of wildlife that survives in the park. All of that mixed with unexpected rain showers, strong winds, vast space, and of course–the impressive granite monoliths that create secret corridors, dizzying mazes, and perfect rock climbs–all make for a weird, Dr. Seuss-like place.

Somehow, all of this craziness translates into impeccable beauty. That desert doesn’t seem to care much for the rules.

And neither does the climbing in Joshua Tree. It is so incomparable to the climbing of any other place. It’s not uncommon to find yourself in odd shapes (twisted and gnarled, resembling the Joshua trees), moving in ways that you swear you’ve never moved before, and, most notoriously, having to be extremely brave.

The mystery of the land, the bold climbing, and the gorgeous scenery all create a sense of quiet but undeniable freedom. It’s so unorthodox that all of the sudden you start to feel a little wild, like all of these things you’ve accepted to be true over the years might be, well, false. Like anything goes.

God is out in that desert for sure.

If you wanna read something less woo-woo about my Joshua Tree trip, here’s an article I wrote for the Touchstone Climbing blog a few days back: http://touchstoneclimbing.com/?id=676

Then, we headed back to the Bay Area for Christmas, spent a few days visiting with family and eating well, and before I even had time to write a thank-you note I found myself looking up at the Milky Way, cheers-ing new friends with my back warmed by a campfire right in the heart of the Eastern Sierras. I was back in Bishop.

Over the years, Bishop has become so much more than a climbing destination for me–it’s the place I flee to whenever I’m troubled or worried, when I score a new writing gig or have a broken heart, when there is something to think about or something to celebrate. It is the first place I think of going when I wake up in the middle of the night with an overwhelming urge to leave. It may sound silly, but it really has become like home. So, it only felt natural to spend the last days of 2013 and the first of 2014 in a place I feel so comforted by.

Many people, however, would not use any version of the word “comfort” in a sentence describing Bishop. Many of the boulders in Bishop are BIG. The climbing is hard. The rock wrecks your skin. It’s dry, it’s a desert, it’s cold–well, most years it’s cold. But for whatever reasons, I love Bishop.

If you’ve ever read any of my writing, I think that’s something you already understand.

After having spent a good portion of the fall on the towering walls of Yosemite, the single-pitch climbing of Joshua Tree and the bouldering in Bishop were very welcomed. Even more so for Ethan, I’m sure, because he spent much more time on the valley walls than I did.

Life has been good the past few months–a whirlwind of really happy moments that have been strung together by the holidays, rock climbing, yoga, my family, a boyfriend…and as usual, this is all speckled with the always present concern over money, living situations, and being a good, honest girl.

Despite the lack of what most people would consider a job over these past years, I sure do feel like I’ve been pretty busy.

Come to think of it, when I said that all I’ve been doing this past month is climbing, that’s not entirely true. All I’ve been doing for the past few years is climbing.

I wish, for my bank account and the part of me who wants to be a normal part of society’s sake, that I was sick of this sport. You’d think after years of it that I’d be burned out, craving the comfort of my own house and a schedule and money and a normal answer to the question, “what have you been up to these past few years?”–and I do crave those things, especially the schedule thing, but the urge to climb is just so much stronger.

Climbing is so powerful. It will swallow you whole. It will consume all of your thoughts. It will determine all major life decisions such as where you live, how you spend your money, and who you fall in love with.

Maybe this is true of anything we have passion in life for, maybe it isn’t the climbing as much as it is how much I love it.

With every climbing partner I’ve ever had, the conversation comes up: why do we do this? How does something as–let’s face it–meaningless and insignificant as climbing up a rock control our lives so relentlessly? Climbing is good, and it makes me a better girl, but hey, I ain’t curing cancer over here.

Recently, there is an ever-present pull that I feel to give back to this world in some way, probably because I’ve done a whole lot of taking these past years. I feel my best when the taking (climbing) and the giving (teaching yoga or climbing, writing) are in equal parts.

No matter who I’m talking with, the answer to why climb? sounds pretty similar across the board: it’s simply the way we have chosen to exist during this earthly existence. We can’t not climb. It’s how we learn about living and dying. We climb because it’s how we express and declare that we’re a part of this place. There are a million ways to do this. Some people do this in a way that is positive and peaceful, others do this in a way that sucks to be around (aka: mean people).

It’s funny that the thing that has so much control over my life has also let me experience massive amounts of freedom. I guess that’s just how loving something goes.

The more I try to figure things out the less I feel like things are being figured out. No matter how many lists I write out or New Years resolutions I make, nothing will help me feel as settled as climbing does. And keep in mind that I’m using the word “climbing” to encompass all the things in this life that give me a pulse.

My wish for all of you in this new year is to stop worrying so much about figuring it all out and to just do the things that make you feel like yourself, or to at least find the thing that makes you feel like yourself, to take and to give equally, to visit the places that comfort you, to be with your best friends, to express “hey! I’m alive!” in a way that makes you endlessly happy.

Happy 2014!

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