Back in the bay. Well, I have been for a week and a half now, but I finally got around to some blog writing.
I’ve been teaching and practicing yoga, babysitting, writing, spring cleaning, and running. God, have I been running.
Nope, no climbing.
It took about a month of being injured to fully accept that I am in fact injured. I kept on trying to get around it when I was in Red Rocks, telling myself I could go climbing but not do any kind of movement that caused my hand and forearm any pain. Turns out that was just about impossible–everything made it hurt. Just pulling up the rope to clip in to the gear proved to be painful. Crimps hurt, slopers hurt, finger locks hurt, rappelling hurt, driving hurt, holding a kettle of tea hurt, squeezing shampoo out of it’s bottle hurt, pouring wine hurt, taking the cap off my nalgene hurt.
So, I did what any yoga-teaching, self-studying, responsible young woman would do–I freaked the hell out.
I felt climbing, my beloved climbing, my passion and my playground, being taken away from me. My response to this feeling was fear which led to grasping, in a figurative way as well as a literal way since I spend my days clinging to the side of a cliff afterall. I couldn’t, I wouldn’t let go of the rocks.
Crux pitch on Cloud Tower: I am flying. A few pitches of just downright fun rock climbing below me, I am smiling and ready to try hard. I tell myself to just let go if it hurts my hand, which it probably will, given it’s a left hand intensive corner with shitty feet. Don’t worry, I tell myself, just take care of your hand. I start up the corner and I am trying. I am trying hard. I feel pain, that annoying pulling sensation in my palm and down my forearm as soon as my fingertips even slightly pull on the seamed corner. Just let go, I tell myself. But I can’t. I don’t. I want to climb, to have to try. I want tired back muscles, lungs screaming for air. I still don’t let go. Just let go, god damnit! Why can’t you just let go? You’re HURT, let go! It’s just rock climbing, it’s just one pitch, it’s just a few moves of one pitch! Before I convince myself to let go, my foot skids off the slick sandstone and I’m hanging on the rope.
It wasn’t until we climbed the rest of the route, rappelled down and drank some water that my mind was clear enough and my heart was open enough to accept the fact that I had to stop climbing for a while. I had to heal.
As soon as I accepted that, I finally felt calm, all of that anger and fighting myself and denial and attemps of control faded away. I left all of that in the desert.
Mt Clark, California. Just do it, he tells me. Nerves pull at my stomach my throat keeps spiraling and twisting into itself. I don’t know, I say. Come on George, he tells me. Maybe, just give me a minute. I swallow hard. It’s that feeling when you’re at the edge of a high cliff, gem-colored water below you, and it’s your turn to jump.
Ethan and I are hiking up to the third tier to retrieve the gear we stashed. We are the only ones on the mountain, the only ones for miles. We are both feeling off, a kind of anxious and tired and stagnant feeling that we can’t quite put our finger on. We chalk it up to End of a Climing Trip Blues and keep hiking.
But then he stops. I know what will help, he says. He sets his backpack down and turns to face the valley, the mountain at his back. He takes a deep breath in, and then, with his exhale, he screams. A loud, open-armed yell, it comes from such a deep part of his belly, a sound that is so his. It’s so Ethan. For some reason the sight and the sound of the situation make me laugh and cry and want to clap for him at the same time. He pushes the last of his scream out of his throat and then it is silent and still. It seems that every bird, every snake and tree and beetle and moth and myself are paralyzed, staring at Ethan with curiosity. He looks to me and he’s smiling so big. So am I.
I know it’s my turn and immediately I’m nervous. What if someone hears me? I think. What if my scream sounds stupid or weird? His was such a good scream! Surely mine is not as good as his. What if screaming like a maniac out in the desert means I’m a crazy person? Am I a crazy person? What about my vocal chords? What if I scream and can’t stop screaming? What if I can’t scream, what if I can’t do it at all?
Just do it, he says. I want to. I want to so badly. But all of those ridiculous questions are just holding it in, trying to bridle it, grasping, grasping, grasping.
I’m so fed up with all of that control, all of that structure and molding of myself into certain shapes, of not just gracefully letting go of fear like I tell all of my yoga students to do, of being afraid of myself, of holding back, holding on, holding everything, I’m so sick of all of that bullshit that the next thing I know, I’m screaming.
I came back to the Bay Area exhausted from Cloud Tower and exhausted from all the grasping. That holding-on-to-everything business is tiring work. But I was also lighter, and more open than ever.
Grasping and holding on to things in our life that are no longer serving us or are no longer there is a denial of this basic fact–this life we live, we live it in cycles. Everything changes. The flower you picked today appears perfect but already it is changing and dying. Best friends and favorite dresses and the feeling of anger and a strawberry ice cream cone and identities, they all come, stay a while or for a minute, and then they just go. Sometimes I have to remind myself, hey Georgie, that story you wrote and worked really hard on but accidentally deleted it all? It’s gone. Those climbing shoes you left in the Black Hills? They’re gone. That friend you used to have a blast with? She’s gone. Your old van? Gone. That opportunity to speak your mind and you didn’t? It’s gooone. Your summer plans of climbing hard sport routes? Gone, gone, gooooooone.
All those other things you don’t wanna share with the Internet that are gone too but you don’t wanna accept that they’re gone? Well, yeah, they’re gone too. Gone, just gone.
And ya know what? That’s all okay! That’s just how it works in these parts. Things come and go just as the moon grows full and bright, wanes, dims into nothing, and does the same thing again and again. It’s always changing, all of us are, the seasons and the stars, you and I, we grow and die and wax and wane.
So, I’ve been running. Running my booty off in the hills. And soon, I’ll be climbing. Well, I’ll be climbing routes that are more like hiking with just a little bit of technical climbing. Mountain climbing. Peak bagging.
All of this just so happens to be perfect. Tuolumne, one of my favorite places in all the Sierra, is home to some of the slabbiest, most majestic and beautiful peaks in the world. So that will be my stomping grounds for late spring, and I have goals and plans o’plenty, with a link up of Tenaya Peak, Matthes Crest, and Cathedral Peak as my main focus. I want to climb all three peaks in a day.
I’ve never been so psyched on a project ever before. I didn’t know I was into this endurance alpine climbing kind of thing, but I am, I so am, and it just feels right. I climb mainly to see and experience this beautiful world, and covering lots of distance and vertical feet at one time seems like a great way to do that.
And then, in late June, I’m heading to Squamish, British Columbia with Ethan and our friend Mike, and I just couldn’t be happier about that. Hopefully I will have healed by then, but if not, well, it’s all good. I’m sure there are some mountains to climb up in those parts too.
I think it’s about adjusting, about rolling with it, about flowing, being open to what’s coming and what’s going, to what’s here and what’s gone. And to all of those things we grasp, that we are so fearful of letting go of, our holding on and our control over keeping it around is just a big lie, an illusion–you know it, I know it, just accept it.
Because honey, it’s goooone.