1,783 miles from Brooklyn, NY to Denver, CO. Did you know that there was a Brooklyn, IA?
I’ve done many a late-night and overnight drive but this is the longest one I’ve done solo. I told Jared O’Brien on the phone yesterday: “Oh, I don’t know. I kind of liked it; I’d do it again.”
“Good.” Jared laughs. “You’re going to have to.”
Here’s the thing: I am a spaz in every definition of the word. I can’t help being anything but. Ian calls me part hummingbird, and I’m pretty sure it’s true. And so there is something absolutely beautiful and harmonious and necessary about driving for hours on an open highway that I’ve almost embraced it as my form of meditation.
And I think that’s what climbing has always been for me, and why I took to it so quickly. My mind is constantly going a thousand and four miles an hour, and then I’m given this task that demands a clear head and forces me into the present moment. It’s about being in control of my emotions without suppressing them. I am a daydreamer, and I always have been. But when I’m “meditating”, I can’t pretend. I can’t avoid. All I can do is give myself the chance to speak truly and then be brave enough to listen.
So what am I doing in Colorado?
I had a few moments (once in Ohio and again in Nebraska) where I turned to Shooter and started laughing so hard, and I couldn’t stop. I thought I was going crazy. What was I doing?
Well, I’m trying to figure out how to also be present outside of my little world of rock climbing. It’s funny, because I had this thought driving through Nebraska (mind you, I was on hour 24 and moderately delirious): “I don’t even know if I’d want to live in a climbing town. Then I’d have to figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life.”
So, really, what am I doing?
Zack and I were on the phone as I was on my way out of the city Thursday evening. He said, “You’re rewriting the book.” I think it means that I’m changing the rules and basing them on present moment happiness. And everybody’s rules are going to be so different, which is the most beautiful part. My rules are that there are no more dwelling on what did or didn’t happen yesterday. It did or it didn’t; forgive and move on. Moments are meant to be here and then gone, and so in each moment, the only guarantee that I have is that it’s here…and then it won’t be.
And in understanding this more fully now, I’m learning to appreciate who and what I have right now in a different way. It’s both new and strange, like I’m looking through new glasses or staying up all night to watch the sunrise and starting from the wrong side of the day. 2015 is right around the corner, and we’ve met a lot of good people in 2014 and lost a few, as well. And that’s the point – life is a total crapshoot. We’ll never know how much time we have on the planet, and it DOES matter what we do, every day, because who we are DOES impact the world.
It’s ironic that I have never climbed a single pitch of rock in Colorado until this weekend, having been here on many different occasions. Allie, Sam, Laura and I went to Eldorado Canyon to pop my cherry on the classic Bastille Crack (5.7). The wind was pretty bad, so we only did the first pitch where I danced my feet on polished rock (it felt better than it looked, thankfully) and jammed cold hands into cold rock up fifty feet or so to bolts. Brr.
The Canyon reminds me of Seneca Rocks (the rock formation and even similar in the way it feels) or the Gunks (in smaller ways) and the hugeness of the place is simply beautiful. I’ve never climbed conglomerate sandstone before, and it’s weird and I like it. (It is NOTHING like southern sandstone though…that’s what’s weird about it. And that’s why I like it.)
Allie and I also did Tagger (5.10b/c) on the Wind Tower before calling it a day. That was the most scared I’ve ever been on a 5.9 pitch in my entire climbing life, by the way. We then took a ride through the rest of the Canyon and I gazed longingly at The Yellow Spur, six pitches of 5.9, that sat in the warm golden light. I’ll be back, Eldo.
Allie’s roommate, Aleya, said something really interesting to me while I was driving her to the airport this morning for her holiday trip back home to PA. She told me that she missed the east coast epic: “Driving eight and a half hours to West Virginia to climb for three days and go back home like it’s no big deal. Climbers on the east coast are driven in this very different way”. She told me about the “Colorado casual”, where basically you look out the window and it’s still overcast and then decide to get brunch until the skies clear up. (Don’t worry, west coast. East coast does this, too. We love brunch.)
Maybe it’s true that the because Colorado climbing is more accessible, every day doesn’t have the be an epic ordeal. I found the same thing to be true in my visits to Tennessee this year. What do you mean, you clock a full work day and THEN go get a few pitches in? That just doesn’t happen.
Well, yes, it does.
It’s a completely new idea to me, still. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen myself living in a climbing town because I (honestly) don’t know that I see myself as a “climber” yet. I love rock climbing. I do it, a lot. But, most days, I still feel like the uncomfortable new kid who hasn’t enough merit badges or savoir-faire. I’m aware that this is kind of silly, and it’s a feeling that comes and goes.
I’m just me. I’m just Kathy. And sometimes I climb things, and other days I don’t.
This thought, while kind of irrational, has been sittin’ around in my brain for a while now: I’ll move to a new town and suddenly, I’m not special anymore. I’m not that Gunks climber from Brooklyn. Silly, right? Then Aleya prompted the idea that hit it on the head for me: Being a climber from the east coast is different from being one in climbing specific areas. You’re simply not as special if you’re the latter.
Okay, okay, that ISN’T true and EVERYBODY is special and a unique snowflake.
But…isn’t it kind of?
Most of my family and non-climbing east coast friends either think I’m Spider-man (which I am, sh) or insane or both. I definitely wouldn’t seem as “special” if I didn’t drive 3/4 of the way across the country to…climb a rock. It’s just something I’ve been thinking a lot about, lately. Is the ability to move up a cliff what makes me special? Is it what makes me, me? There’s more to it, right?
I’m me, I’m Kathy, and sometimes I climb some things and sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I bake and sometimes I binge-eat-ice-cream-for-breakfast-for-days-in-a-row and sometimes I shop or sneeze or craft or read books or go for a run or make pancakes or learn a new song to play on guitar or cry listening to an old mixtape or write a letter to a friend or fall apart for a (little) while. And those are the things that make me special, I think. Even 1,783 miles away from home.
The reality of life and all of its little intricacies will forever loom large, I think.
We’ll always be taking apart and putting ourselves back together, in new and better ways than before.
We’ll forever be seeding and reseeding the garden.
Some days we’ll feel bright and beautiful and special and ready to take on the world. And other days, we’ll feel dank and dark and worthless.
So that’s one of the many reasons I’m where I am. I needed to think and stretch my brain a little bit, and I thought that pacing back and forth across the country might help. I can’t sit still. I’m a hummingbird today.
“And I just want to feel alive, punched open and running freely, unobstructed and ethereal.” Let that be the feeling that takes you to new places, higher elevations and as many self discovery adventures as you can possibly stand (minimum of one million) in the year to come.