A new angle

Exit 38 - Far Side, photo credit Dan Silverberg

Exit 38 – Far Side, photo credit Dan Silverberg

After taking a long hiatus from my blog, I think it’s time to come back from a slightly different angle.  In the past I’ve used this space to talk about art and writing—this made a lot of sense when I was immersed in books and surrounded by artists.  I still write and read, I still paint and draw, and I still love my artist friends, but the people I see most frequently these days are climbers.  I had a friend last night ask if I owned a pair of heels—I realized he’s rarely seen me in anything besides sweaty climbing gear and whatever I throw on to get to and from the gym.

I hope that my climbing world and my writing world collide in to each other soon, and I have high hopes that my friends will come see me read with Kelly Davio, Nicelle Davis, Maggie MK Hess and Sierra Nelson at the Hugo House on Dec 10th. Writing has always been a way to make sense of my world, and I don’t think that will ever change.  I think, though, that to return to writing I need to write about the thing I dream about now—climbing.  My body has always played a large role in the way that I perceive, and therefore played a large role in my writing. (What is your first though?/You’re touching me.) Climbing seems a natural extension of this—and it isn’t surprising that I find joy in learning to trust what my body is capable of.  Last night I finished something tougher than I’d ever climbed at the gym.  I’d been working on the route for a few weeks, always failing at the same spot.  One of my best friends was belaying me, and I came off, again. I called down to her One more try and took a deep breath.  Back on the wall, something just made sense, I shifted my weight, and moved through.  The rest of the climb wasn’t a breeze by any stretch, and I came off again near the top, but I finished it.

There’s poetry in climbing—when it’s right, there’s a sequence that flows with your breath.  It’s hard and it hurts and sometimes you fail. But sometimes, when it’s all working, you find yourself in the most incredible places.  Although I was terrified at the time, the place where I go in meditation is a section of Groundhog Day in Leavenworth. The climb itself isn’t incredibly difficult, but we found ourselves off-route and on something stiffer than I thought we’d be climbing.  My partner was belaying from above and I had to climb to him, laying back on a thick flake while I took out the gear he placed.  I suspect it wouldn’t be scary to me now, but at the time I felt exposed and scared.  It was mid-morning, with summer sun against the rock and swallows kept soaring in and out of crevices.  That moment: birds and sun and rock—alone. That is my zen place. (In looking at the route online I can’t find any information on a flake, and the grade is something I’d be very comfortable leading now—just shows you how scary something can be before you understand it.) I climb to find those moments, where everything clicks and you move forward.

I think it is very fitting that the day after I read at the Hugo House with a dear friend from grad school I will hop on a plane and fly to Mexico to climb with a new friend. Body (text) to body (climb). I’m scared to read the piece I’ve selected, and I’m scared to get to Mexico, speaking whatever Spanish I’ve managed to learn in a month, to climb on stone that’s different than anything else I’ve been on, with a person I am only just getting to know. Yet both decisions make sense to me. Maybe I’m trying to make my body into a poem—learn to move with sequence towards what scares me.  One of my first notebooks in grad school has the simple phrase risk everything written on the first page, underlined twice.  So here we go. Risk it all.

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