Dispatch 093

Written for NaNoWriMo (unedited)

Sam told me one of the most flattering things a male has ever said to me. He said that the other day, when he say me running towards him from Reservoir Wall, I looked beautiful and at peace and like I was meant to be here in Indian Creek. 

I started to see beauty in a way in which I fit my own definition of it. Beauty became about this delicate balance between strength and tranquility that I saw in the women climbers I looked up to. Their strength wasn’t attained by some routine or exercise, but instead was pulled forth from within by experience. It was a strength that exists in all but is exposed in few. A sort of quiet, unassuming power. And to equalize it is a deep sense of peace and understanding and openness. I felt myself slowly revealing these qualities in myself, and I found them beautiful. 

I am a person, like most, of irrational contradictions. I am not scared by dangling 100 ft on a 9.7 mm rope with only two bolts in a sandstone cliff holding me up, however I can barely drive in the rain without having severe anxiety.

Yesterday I climbed a long, astounding crack line known as the Jupiter Crack. Every variation of red and taupe and brown is streaked across the faces of this climb, from which its name originated. I didn’t lead it, but since the route traversed left, I was faced with some hefty falls even on top rope. It was beyond my level. I struggled up a few feet, rested on a good hand jam, and then struggled some more. When I reached the traverse, I moved inches at a time, flexing every muscle in my arms and shoulders to hold me into the wall. There was only one piece of gear in this section, which I scooted along as I went to keep me from falling far. I scraped off the skin on my right elbow and one of my fingers. For what seemed like hours, I jammed my knee into the horizontal crack, moved the gear slightly left, and sat on the rope, over and over until I finally reached the last piece of gear and a blocky ending to the route. My partner had warned me that one of the bolts holding the rope up was also an old style (place by the first person to climb there, Steve Hong) and wasn’t very trustworthy. But even dangling on a less than perfect anchor, 100 feet in the air, thrashing to move inches in the crack, I wasn’t scared. If anything, I was more focused and calm than I’d been all day. This, to me, is calculated and manageable risk. So long as I did everything right, and at least one anchor bolt was good, and my partner was paying attention, I would not get hurt. Unmanageable risk is what rules my life.

It was less than a year ago that I got into my car accident. My last semester of college was so devoid of purpose and pleasure that the only thing that got me through was planning a post-grad road trip with my best friend from Oregon. We spent countless hours looking for the jewels of the American West and making a plan to hit all of them in three weeks. We made a poster for the trip and sent it to an athletic bar company, who agreed to sponsor us with gas money and food. We left for the trip on a shy June morning, unhindered by stress or expectations or obligations. The first three hours of the trip were downright romantic, filled with freedom and laughs, music and joy. But it all ended in seconds. An endless blue sky suddenly turned black. The air and road was filled with pellets of ice, sheets of hail blinding us and everyone else on the road. Before we had a chance to slow down or pull over or even think, the back tires of the car slipped and we careened into a semi truck to our right. For a brief moment, the hood of the car stuck under the semi, but as it dragged us along, the car dislodged and was pushed into cross traffic and off the other side of the highway into a ditch. Not even a scratch, either of us. I didn’t have words for the feeling I had as we stood for an hour and a half in the rain waiting for the police to arrive. I felt empty but at the same time filled with something – a need for explanation, a need for someone to tell me it was okay. I didn’t cry until later when I realized we were one second or turn from being obliterated under a semi-truck.

I build my fears based on experience. For the last year, I have had uncontrollable anxiety when faced with driving in weather. I’m not talking about a gentle anxiety that makes you need to take a deep breath before something. Mine destroys me. It makes me dizzy, unable to converse, even nauseous. 

Rain is coming to the desert. I feel restless, like I need to do something about it.