Racing the Sun

Dave burled down the shitty Mount Woodson trail headed downhill to Starface when red flashed down below. It’s rare to see another climber down here, especially on a weekday. As we continued down the slope scrambling the occasional boulder I recognized my longtime friend and climbing partner Janet coming up the hill towards us. And that made sense, because this whole story began while Janet and I were climbing Sunset Streaks on Corte Madera a month prior.

Most climbers can agree that climbing has this way of gripping us with obsession, and while many of us strive to separate ourselves from dirtbagdom and lead more normal lives, it will often only take one more climb, just like one more hit for an addict, to make us forget all of the woes associated with our unmanageable lifestyle. I was overtaken with one of those moments on Corte Madera.

I originally accepted to go as a sort of favor. I wasn’t all that psyched on waking up early and going on a big hike to do a multipitch climb on a south facing cliff baking in the early Summer sun. And with that attitude, I dragged for most of the climb. My feet felt sloppy, and my patience was not present for most of the climb–there was no passion. But then I took the final pitch and I got gripped by climbing again; just like that I snapped out of my funk, and before I knew it was talking shit and committing to big plans. I committed to climb the South Face of Charlotte Dome in Kings Canyon–an alpine climb in the Sierra Nevada, followed up with an in a day link up of Royal Arches to Crest Jewel Direct in Yosemite Valley–a total of 30 pitches.

It’s been a strange time, and I’ve been grappling with the direction that I want my life to go. I find that I almost always deal in extremes. There isn’t really a middle ground with me, and that makes it really difficult when I’m stuck in a place of indecision. On one side I see and suffer the consequences of my freestyle living–life having turned into one big road trip. On the contrary though, when I came back and started rebuilding my life it made me question further what direction I wanted my life to go, because while I had lots of security and stability socially and financially, I was losing my grasp on my contentedness with my day to day living. Not a great compromise.

Over the past few months, after a break from climbing to heal some injuries, I’ve been chasing the sun in more ways than one. I’ve been out running amok with all my free time climbing into the dark of night by headlamp, and finding purpose beyond a place and role in society. As I work more and more and accumulate better standing, I find that my body deteriorates, and with the free time I do have I’m not actually able to enjoy it because I’m too beat up and tired to be fully present. Quite the dilemma… I believe this is the existential dilemma. Unless of course I committed fully to that working model that most do–and then I can just… you know… be normal.

One thing I’ve learned from the mountains is that we have less daylight than we think. And one thing I’ve learned from my predecessors, is that we have less daylight than we think. It’s easy to look towards the horizon at noon and project having plenty of time, but in an instant twilight is upon us and we’re scrambling back to safety, or we’re aging past the prime we took for granted. I think it’s really important to be deliberate about these thoughts on being, because the sun will set on our lives, and sooner than we think. So be who you are and do what makes you happy and fuck what anyone else has to say about that.

Life shouldn’t be assessed by logic, but instead experienced through feel and action. Fear dominates and corrupts the experience of individuality, and logical assessment does just that: it brings forth fear and insecurity and incorporates them into our decision making process, adulterating the life we live by adding constraints.

I’m rambling now. I’m just glad to get some writing down. It’s been a while. I’ll leave you with this poem, and also let you know that I just got back from that trip I mentioned, and we got DOWN, so look forward to that content detailing the climbs and my experiences in the mountains and on the road.

It Isn’t Me

It isn’t me, he’d say,
stepping out of a landscape
that offered, he’d thought, the backdrop
to a plausible existence
until he entered it; it’s just not me,
he’d murmur, walking away.
he’d find himself reluctantly concluding
that this, too, wasn’t him.
He wanted to get married, make a home,
unfold a life among his neighbors’ lives,
branching and blossoming like a tree,
but when it came to it, it isn’t me
was all he seemed to learn
from all his diligent forays outward.
And why it should be so hard
for someone not so different from themselves,
to find what they’d found, barely even seeking;
what gift he’d not been given, what forlorn
charm of his they’d had the luck to lack,
puzzled them—though not unduly:
they lived inside their lives so fully
they couldn’t, in the end, believe in him,
except as some half-legendary figure
destined, or doomed, to carry on his back
the weight of their own all-but-weightless, stray
doubts and discomforts. Only sometimes,
alone in offices or living rooms,
they’d hear that phrase again: it isn’t me,
and wonder, briefly, what they were, and where,
and feel the strangeness of being there.