Monday, April 12, 2010
(Dis)Shelved: Part II
As I reached my group of friends at the North Bank, every muscle in my body ached. My head, though, was giving me the most trouble. Having already experienced so much just in the journey to that moment, I was unable to sift through my thoughts in order to make room for new things. Tyler was wearing one of my Rheterica t-shirts, and announced that it was well received among the gang. Janice and Lizz were ready to get their climb on. And there I was, suffering from mind melt.
(PHOTO: My first outdoor climb: "Focus and go up" by Janice)
I couldn’t get my act together. I tried. So I approached my first climb already knowing my head wasn’t there with me – I had left it somewhere on the hike. So I wasn’t able to process the encouragement, to let love fill me, or to even channel it to help me ascend. I climbed my first on-rock route feeling as if I were outside of my own body. As I reached a difficult crux, I knew I was in trouble. It’s not smart to climb when your head isn’t in the present moment – it’s just not safe. So I cut my losses, part of me feeling as if I had failed, part of me clinging to the victory of getting on the rock at all.
(PHOTO: Lizz celebrating her 30th by topping out a lead)
But I was full, of life, of love, of hope. Full with comfortable quiet, I watched and listened. I wrote more poetry vandalism on the walls of my heart – bold, declarative, and in my own colors. I didn’t need to climb today, I thought. I didn’t need anything except Whitman, maybe.
There was never any more inception than there is now,
Nor any more youth or age than there is now,
And will never be any more perfection than there is now,
Nor any more heaven or hell than there is now
A long time ago, when I worked for a church, I learned two things that have stuck with me since. The first is the concept of the “prayer closet” – your own private space in which to experience spiritual connections and pray. The second, was a lesson about the baptism of the heart itself, when once is washed clean not by the water offered up in iconic representations of baptismal religious practice, but by Grace itself.
(PHOTO: Amy, relaxing at North Wall)
(PHOTO: Eli in "over ...oh-oh-oh-overdrive")
Sitting among my friends, I felt awash in both grace and love. Withdrawn in my silence, I was resting in my own prayer closet. I realized, while sitting down after handing over my first climb in gratitude, that I had somehow found my path. Buddhist writer and activist Thich Nhat Hanh writes of this kind of power, this connection to spirit and Self in his book, The Art of Power (2007):
If you have some experience that this path leads in a good direction, you will have faith in your path. You are very happy that you have a path, and thus you being to have power. This power will not destroy you or the people around you. In fact, it gives you strength and energy that other people can feel. When you have faith, your eyes are bright and your steps are confident. This is power. You can generate this kind of power every moment of your daily life. It will bring you a lot of happiness (16).
(PHOTO: Ron, doing a "sweet belay" for Tommy and Tyler, soaking up the day)
Just the night before, my friend Dana Marie had told me that she had noticed what she termed a transformation. “When I met you, you were so nervous, so timid. Now I see you and it’s like you’ve changed everything. It’s really cool to see you so happy, so bright and alive.”
We were walking a path back from the outhouse, and I was smoking my last cigarette. And I knew it was my last one because I had found my path. In just a few hours at Shelf Road, I had come to see that I wanted to spend the rest of my life loving and being among my friends, and that smoking was going to separate me from them, from my family. Just the thought of losing those I love too soon made my heart ache. And that was it. And in the three days since, I haven’t craved a thing.
Except a grilled ribeye steak, but that’s a different addiction.
(PHOTO: "Hot Climbing Momma Kate O with Baby D)
Sitting on a rock with friends, watching a new mommy love her baby, made me think of my own babies back home. My next trip to Shelf will be their trip to Shelf, too. I was thinking about all the years between their birth and their adult lives, wondering if they remembered all the mom smiles I offered them, if they understood my quiet way, and if they know how much I love them, even though they no longer wear ducky pajamas. The greatest part about maternal love is the way its waves ripple out to others, reach deep into the chest and touch one's soul. Watching new mommy love is proof life is gloriously good, and sitting on that rock I wanted to reach out and hug my kids. I wanted them there with me to see the bright visions my eyes held at that moment. I wanted them to know there was nothing I regretted about our life together, nothing more I could want but their respect and love as grown adults.
And it was this moment, watching a baby, remembering my own, when I realized something in my life had changed.
When I got home last night, as I showed photos from the trip to Laura, she was expressing great interest in my discoveries. Since I began P'UP, she hasn't wanted to climb with me. She hasn't wanted to climb at all. Given all the reasons we came to climbing in the first place, this worried me. As a mom, I wondered if I had killed her teenage enthusiasm for the sport by trying it too. I wondered if we were losing touch, our common understanding of the difficulties of being a family. I wondered if I was losing her to the momentum of her own life, her own journey. And I grieved this apparent loss in my own way, in quiet hours with my journal.
(PHOTO: Adam doing what he loves)
It was Adam who brought climbing into our lives, his way of showing support for a new and difficult part of my family's journey together. In fact, if it weren't for Adam, none of the Boulder friends I have now would be friends at all. He's been more than generous, and I doubt he'll ever really understand how much this has brought to our lives. "Did Adam climb well?" Laura asked.
"Duh," I said.
"And Tyler climbed?"
"Those Scheers are badasses," she said. "I love them."
As she sat on my bed, her feet dangling, she smiled at me. "Hey, I'm going to bed," she said, then got up to leave. As she reached my bedroom door, she looked over her shoulder at me.
"I want to climb with you tomorrow," she said.
And I wanted to cry. The path was definitely right. I had faith again.