This was written in fragments over the past two weeks, thought I would share. Happy New Year to you all!
I am sitting in the driver’s seat of Ethan’s car. In front of me are the massive sandstone walls that make up First Creek canyon. The moon, just past full, hangs low in the sky directly behind me. Her face has doused the landscape with light so heavy that it drips off the yucca and pools on the desert floor. The canyon is visible as if it were high noon. I see the flicker of a headlamp every so often, that’s Ethan. Probably a half hour away. I’m marshmallowed in a heavy down jacket and there is an open bottle of Malbec in the cup holder.
Back in the desert, back on the road. Finally.
I left Ethan at this same dirt parking lot earlier in the day, drove into town and settled in to a hip cafe in a suburby part of Las Vegas. It’s the kind of place that plays Michael Buble and all the decor is either black or red. Women in stilettos and dark lipstick walked past my table, each one wearing a different perfume. It was like a sampling of the season’s most popular scents. I could picture the women opening the shiny bottles on Christmas morning, oohing and awwing about how lucky they are to have such thoughtful fiancees.
His headlamp is a steady dot of light now, he’s on the flat part of the trail. He’s a fast hiker so I better finish this quick.
Moths have it easy. They find a partner using scent alone. There is no questioning, no weighing of options, no talking about it, no thinking, no saying the wrong thing.
“This is how moths speak to each other. They tell their love across the fields by scent. There is no mouth, the wrong words are impossible, either a mate is there or he is not, and if so the pair will find each other in the dark.” -Barbara Kingsolver, Prodigal Summer
For humans, we’ve made the whole thing into something far, far more complicated.
I remember when he was in Europe and I was in Bishop, how I found one of his t-shirts twisted into a pair of my yoga pants at the bottom of my backpack. The two items clung to each other with static electricity. As I peeled them apart a scent was released. Immediately I recognized the smell–it was him. Just one inhale’s worth, but it was enough to bathe my brain and cause an overwhelming series of synapses that popped and crackled like fireworks. My stomach filled with butterflies and the corners of my mouth curled into a soft smile.
Ethan, Mike and I left for Bishop a few days after Christmas, climbed in the Buttermilks for five days or so, spent New Year’s Eve soaking in a hot tub and falling asleep at 10pm, then we headed over to Vegas. After a few days of sandstone, Mike flew home and Ethan and I headed back to Bishop.
Climbing was exceptionally hard for me in 2014. One of my goals for the new year was to let go of climbing a bit, to focus on something else, because it seemed like I was having more bad days than good. This confused me–climbing was causing me a good bit of frustration, but I couldn’t wait to get back out there. I still wanted to go climbing all of the time. I shouldn’t love something that causes me so much suffering, I told myself.
The drive from Las Vegas to Bishop has this stretch of highway that winds through the White Mountains, near the Bristlecone Pine Forest, that’s like something out of a dream. Even with music playing and the hum of the car’s engine, there is a quiet out there that is obvious. After the section where the canyon walls tighten the curves in the road, it opens into a vast valley. It was late, dark, and we were tired–we decided to pull off the main highway on to a dirt road to find a place to park and sleep for the night.
The moon had risen and her light was knocking on the camper’s walls. I rolled onto my belly and propped myself up with my forearms, unzipped the window and let the white beams flood onto our sleeping bag. His arm was flung across my back and our legs tangled into each other like vines. The cool mountain air widened my eyes and I sipped it in like a medicinal tea, for the first time in a while. I was so warm.
DAMNIT! I yelled as I fell on to the crash pad. I limped off, frustrated and in pain from having my climbing shoe skid off a foothold, causing me to bang my knee on the rock in the same place that I had the day before, and the day before that. It had been deep purple with a bruise since the second day of the trip. As I walked up the hill, through the sage, my knee felt wet. I looked down and saw that the fabric of my yoga pants that was covering my knee was darker than the rest. I didn’t have to lift my pant leg to know that I was bleeding.
Give me a break, I said out loud to no one. Everyone else was down at the boulder. I turned to face Mount Tom. Just give me one break. That’s all I need! I’m getting my ass kicked out here, every day. I don’t know how much more I can take!
Why the hell do I even do this, I wondered. The mountains were silent, as usual. Beauty never asks for acknowledgement. I stared at them hard. I could feel them looking back. My mind’s eye shifted so that I was on the summit of Mt. Tom, looking down at the Buttermilks. I could barely see myself, but I recognized my hair twirled into a little wad on top of my head. I was so small. I saw myself falling, over and over again, getting frustrated, banging my knee, limping off, throwing my hands up in the air, “Well that’s just great,” I could see my mouth moving.
You know, I’ve always been encouraged to look within myself, to live an examined life, to search for what I truly am, but to be frank, I am absolutely sick of myself. I don’t want to think about why I can’t climb that boulder, or why I banged my knee over and over on the same move, or why I love what I love.
I love for unexplainable reasons. Most everything that I do is unexplainable and it has driven me absolutely crazy trying to figure out the Whys. I just feel a pull, a twinge in my belly, a sizzling of synapses when I’m around certain things, and, a certain man. I don’t know why that hasn’t been enough for me.
It’s not a Why, it’s more subtle than that, more innate, like moths that can find each other in a vast field without speaking. Even in the dark.