Girl, be a Lady Tonight

I’m slowly getting back to my own feet again. Metaphorically, of course—I’m getting off my feet more often. On my hands? I think I lost the thread. What I mean to say is—I’m climbing again, after a few weeks off.  A few weeks isn’t a terribly long time—I know this.  But I also know—within those weeks I wasn’t sure how long I was going to have to take off. I thought it would be the whole summer.

Enter leaping, excited, climbing ME! Enter a lot of other frustrations and tears and distress.  Enter sunshine, enter rain, enter North Bend and mosquitoes.

Despite being part of She Rocks, of course I head out to the mountains with a group of guys first.  (So why do I have to keep insisting that She Rocks isn’t a separatist movement?) The first time out found us hiking up the Little Si trail in a light mist.  We figured there wouldn’t be much climbing, but we might as well explore the area.  I hadn’t been past British Aisles, and it was nice to follow the walls through the moss-drenched forest.  We finally found some dry rock and medium grade climbs and I jumped on lead…. Only to swear and curse and hurt like a petulant child. Girl- remember you had a fractured wrist? Calm it.

Why am I so hard on myself? I’ve never been the best at anything, so what exactly am I expecting? In school I was always a strong runner, but there were women faster. I can hold my own with a paint brush, but there are people who make work that moves me more than mine own ever will.  I got into grad school, sure, but I got rejected by every school I applied to besides the one I went to.  I love writing, but I’ve yet to put together a manuscript that someone wants. This isn’t meant to come across as a litany of failure, just a realistic check-in.  Why can’t I calm myself down and be ok being ok? Especially now.

My friends laughed at me in the best way possible. They offer encouraging support and patience and are really very adult about everything. And still I was frustrated.

Exit 32- Human Foot - British Aisles

Photo credit – Jason Sellers

Then last night I watched a woman on some her first lead climbs. She moved slowly up the climb and, about ten feet from the top, got snagged.  Her partner waited patiently, shouting up what advice he had to give.  She was nearly at a clip and from the ground it looked like she could, if she just moved a hand slightly, make the clip and be safe.  Instead she was caught up in the rope, tentatively reaching, pulling back, reaching again. Freaking out.

I’ve seen a lot of bad ass climbers, but this woman sort of blew me away.  I know what she was feeling.  She was scared, tired, frustrated, in pain. She ended up above the bolt, trying to find a more secure place, and as we watched from the ground made the clip from above with a gut-wrenching move. Her partner started to cheer and say “If you want to rest…” but she was already up and moving, making her way to the anchors.  “That was so embarrassing!” she shouted.

No. No it wasn’t. It was amazing. And it made me want to keep my complaining tongue in my mouth.  She was inspiring.  She wasn’t climbing anything that people might think of as “tough” and yet it was so fun and powerful to watch her finish.  Because climbing isn’t what someone else can do, it’s what you can do. And she did it.  That’s what I was reminded of—climb for me, for where I am, and not for where I want to be or some bar that I’ve set for myself.  There’s time for that, there will always be time for that. But girl, calm down. Heal. Have fun.

The woman and her partner got to the trail-head right as we were about to leave, and I dug out a She Rocks sticker to give her.  She lives in Tacoma and she told me her name but I didn’t write it down and I completely forget what it was.  But to you—if you’re ever reading this—thank you.  You rock.

My Summer Project

It’s only the second week of April and already my body feels that summer is in full swing.  I’ve spent two weekends in the bright sun at Vantage and I’m headed, in just under an hour, towards Smith Rock.

I’ve been struggling to find a way to bring art back into my life– I don’t write poetry with any regularity, I’m not reading theory or novels, and I haven’t been focused on visual work in a long time.  In short– I’ve been in the climbing gym a hell of a lot, I’ve been working to help start SheRocks and I’ve been (gasp) working at my job.  Other people find ways of keeping at art, but I’ve let it slip.  That is, until recently. Sometimes it just takes one person to look at you a different way and call you something you used to hear regularly to reawaken. I’m not sure how exactly my art background came up when talking with G at first, but it did, and then it didn’t stop. We ended up spending a day climbing at the gym and then working on art together and I stumbled into my next project– an attempt to combine rock and art.

I’ve been doing block prints for a long time, but never for anything serious.  I usually contribute a design for the beer labels when I brew with B, and I make my sister’s holiday cards, but I can’t really remember the last print project I took on for myself.  This summer– I’m going to document my climbs. I’m still working on the parameters, but for now, every weekend that I go climbing I will make a print based on the location.  My end goal, at the moment, is to combine all the prints into a hand bound book at the end of the summer.

There are a couple of things that really excite me about this.  First, it’s going to be a challenge to work with the same location multiple times.  The basalt columns of Frenchman Coulee are beautiful, but if I go there a few times, I don’t want the same column image.  Second, I get to play with inking to bring out additional details. Third, I know, logically, that I had a lot of adventures last summer.  It still feels like I barely got outside.  At the end of this summer I will have a stack of prints that are irrefutable proof that yes, adventure happened.  I’m writing the location, date, and the company I was with on the back of each plate, and I might add the text to the images for the final presentation.

Anyhow. That’s my plan. It’ll change, I’m sure, but that’s the plan so far.

Here are two of the images from the series so far, rough test prints.

Zig Zag wall with Gavin, Chloe and Brad.

Zig Zag wall with Gavin, Chloe and Brad.

Millennium Wall with Sarah, Dyan and Max

Millennium Wall with Sarah, Dyan and Max

Crawling out of the Angercave

Around this time last year I met my good friend K. She and I were in the same ski lesson and we became fast friends and climbing partners.  When we met we were both seeing men that weren’t ideal partners and she was by my side as the dude I was seeing went our separate ways only to later reconnect and start adventuring together again.  She was there when it all burned in a flaming disaster that made me so upset that I barely ate for two weeks, got horribly sick and lost my voice, and probably dropped a few pounds more than is healthy. And then I got back on my feet, threw myself into climbing and yoga and turning my body into a thing of strength.  It was over this past year that K introduced me to the concept of caves; the sadcave where you cry, the angercave where you rage. I spent a lot of this past year in and out of either cave—with brief bouts out for sunshine.

The thing is—I know my life doesn’t look cave-like.  Adventures are beautiful and writing is inspiring and those are the things I want to share. It’s easy to forget that what you see is a specifically catered experience. I’m working to remember that about what I see of other people’s lives, but I think it’s time I take a social media hiatus (and probably time I buy myself a happy light to combat the short winter days).  There are too many weddings and babies and climbing trips that I’m not part of. I know from experience that the difficult parts aren’t what are shared.  My trip to Iceland with my sister was full of disaster—but we came back to “It looked amazing!” and “What a great time you guys had!”  We didn’t show the screaming argument in our hotel, or the hours spent walking on cold and wet streets only to find out that we were at the wrong zoo entrance and our guide was long gone.

Instagram is a catered collection of photographs and facebook is… I’m not really sure what facebook is. A billboard and a water-cooler and an email chain letter and a high school cafeteria all rolled into one easily bookmarked page. It’s also an easy place to organize events and coordinate carpools, and that’s been my excuse for not leaving the whole thing.  I don’t like what social media does to me, but I also find it inspiring. I follow climbers and photographers and it makes me want to adventure more, create more art, and be a better and more exciting person.  And that’s the problem. Better. Better than? Than who I am now? Than someone else out there? I’m too naturally competitive, with myself and everyone around me, and during the grey short days it’s easy to get caught up in an angercave.

So I’m working towards letting inspiration be inspiration without competition.  Here and here are some of the photographs I’ve found through artists I follow on Instagram, and I love them.  I’m working towards loving them, and not letting them pressure me into feeling as if I need to grab my camera and hit the streets.

Also: may I suggest this for your listening pleasure? I love Sharon and I’m so happy to see her with all the amazing followers she has, making music that people love. Sharon Van Etten- We Are Fine (remix). Now if only I could find that CD of hers from college with White Lines and You’re No Good on it….

Cole Rise – Dubai blog entry


Bex Finch- II Series