Friday, October 29, 2010

A Case for Dreaming

The breeze catches my shirt, the chalk bag clipped to the back of my harness, the wisps of curl set free from beneath my helmet, gently urging me up...up...upwards. The sun is warm; not so hot to bake out my energy, but that perfect temperature that keeps the chill away. Calm, steady, smooth, I step higher, reach higher into the perfect splitter to a solid stance and bomber gear. I place, I clip, and I continue upwards on rock that feels as much a part of my being as do my lungs pumping a steady breath in and out and my heart that hums with the rhythm of my movements. Wings spread wide, a hawk soars above watching my moves, acknowledging with approval, my existence in this place. Without rushing, I make my way to the ledge, pausing to rest and take in my surroundings. Then I anchor in and bring my partner up.

Smooth, calm, and full of the same exuberance for this experience as me, my partner climbs to meet me. We high-five, share a chuckle at some inside joke that came from this experience, exclaim our happiness at this most incredible day and our burly achievement, swap gear. Then my faceless climbing partner continues on.

My partner is "faceless" because this is a dream. This partner embody qualities from many of the people I've climbed with over the years - the arms of one, feet of a second, ears, hair, helmet, harness of others, but with the inspired joy for this activity that all have shared. They cannot have a face, since one is not enough. In this dream, I scale the vertical and overhanging, small-featured faces and sustained cracks and I have no hesitation, I do not waver, I do not need to "take." I am confident and I am crushing it! 

My new friend, Mr. Burro
I love this dream. I dream it when I sleep and I dream it when I'm awake, while I stare over my desk and out the window towards the Olympics, out the windshield of my car, out the window by my kitchen sink into the dark as I do my dinner's dishes. This is the dream I'm chasing, hoping to turn into reality.

This dream was a big part of why I so eagerly anticipated my road trip to Red Rock Canyon. This was going to be a marker as to how far I'd come in my "year of climbing". I was going to get on BIG! things. And finally, as in my dream, feel like a real climber.

But, my trip was not what I expected. And this last week it dawned on me that I don't even know what being a real climber means. Can someone be a "fake" climber vs. a "real"one? Is there such a thing? And if not, what is this goal I'm trying to achieve anyways?

The current reality: I forget to breathe, my legs shake, my confidence falters. "Crushing it" means finishing a 2-pitch, 5.7 trad climb or clipping 5.9 sport bolts, maybe when pushed a 5.10, without panic. This reality is not my dream. I am not there. Yet.

In Red Rock, torrential rain, thunder, and terrifyingly close lightning were a surprise. I got only 4 days on rock instead of 7. Climbing Pauligk Pillar, that 2-pitch 5.7, took my breath away, required all my focus, and, were it not for my partners singing ridiculous songs for distraction, I might not have been able to smile away the heart- and climb-stopping fear (light-years away from even a hint of 5.12). The one "longer" route I climbed kicked me off at halfway when another downpour hit. I had enough down time re-repack my dirty clothes, wander a bookstore for half a day, and drink too much coffee. None of this was planned.

But also not planned was the time to make new friendships, renew ones I'd let lax, and redefine others, including the one with myself, this climber girl. (And the time to hang out with wild burro!) Despite all that was unexpected, I still had fun. So, what is it that this climber really wants? Is it to someday redpoint 5.12? Climb big walls? Find some hidden, unknown line to FA?

New day, new landscape. 
At one point, these goals were that beautiful dream. Maybe, they're still parts of it; I'd like to hope so. But they are no longer the definition of what that dream climb is all about. My purpose for being in Nevada's desert, on PNW granite at home, or on that nameless climb in my head has changed. While the dream may still look similar, I'm reminded that its actually about the feel of the breeze, the joy for a moment shared with a good partner, the journey to find peace through letting go of fear, the fun in achieving even 5.7, and in the unexpected goodness of "off" days with friends.

One thing I am very confident of; I still love this dream, its what real climbing is to me. And this is reality.

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