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.