Friday, October 2, 2020

"Angels can fly because they can take themselves lightly" - GK Chesterton.  

When I started this blog, I always thought I would someday achieve a balance between my loves and my hobbies and my work. I realize now that is too abstract and nonsensical. What does "balance" even mean? That I spend 4 hours a day working, 4 hours a day cooking, 4 hours a day playing music, 4 hours a day playing in the mountains, and 8 hours a day sleeping? 

Every time I "escape" to the mountains the realities of life simply come into sharper and worries continue to accumulate, and I am inundated with endless mind chatter the second I touch my foot to the gas pedal heading home. 

I took this photo on Sunday, climbing Castle Mountain in Alberta. On the approach I talked about this blog and I realized how much I miss the writing. I like the platform of IG for entertainment and quick hits for photo sharing, but it just doesn't lend itself to more thoughtful work. I want to come back, I really do. But in many ways, I feel like my story (if I ever had one) has been told. So I don't know how much is here to circle back to, if the interest would still be here, and what I might say. 

Maybe I will say this for now. Yesterday I had a moment of bliss. I was standing several pitches up on Mt Cory. The sky above was bluebird. The evergreen forest below was contrasted with bright yellow larches, and divided by the snaking aquamarine Bow River. I was fizzling out mentally and physically from four long days of hiking and climbing. But there I was on this ledge, feeling a slight breeze and the sun on my face. I had been admiring the grooved contours of the gray limestone in front of me, ridges and runnels, like abstract art carved into the rock. My mind drifted away, the thoughts of "past past past future future future!" dissolved and I was just....there. I felt the rope tighten which cued my mind to being on belay and thus safe to climb. I unclipped the clove hitch that was securing me while leaning back on the anchor. I moved to climb and heard "ON BELAY!" The call made by your climbing partner when you're safe to unclip and start climbing. 

My mind went from the blurry water-colour bliss to the shock realization that I had just made a potentially fatal error. I had drifted off, feeling so alive and so calm, that when I drifted back with complacency I skipped a step and removed my own safety, thinking that I must have heard the "ON BELAY" without registering it. 

Of course I didn't fall. My climbing partner knew I was tired and knew I was probably being lulled by the tranquility and beauty. He had arranged the transfer to only allow a few seconds of a potentially dangerous window between me taking myself off the safety of the anchor and onto the safety of his belay from above. He knew what had happened as he saw me appear up the pitch too quickly. 

I climbed to the top of the pitch and we carried on to finish the route. I oscillated between awe at the strange liminal space that I had dipped into momentarily, and panic at how carelessly I had made a mistake that could have ended in disaster. He was calm but pointed out that he saw the mistake coming and thus minimized the risk ahead of time. These moments are lessons, vitally important ones. 

I suppose that is the danger of drinking life to the lees, there is always a chance you will reach the last drop sooner than planned.