Falling...

.... back in my younger days, I dabbled in rock climbing....it was something that initially was alien to me.. having no knowledge of ropes, harnesses, or knots.... and also, being as incredibly afraid of heights as I was, it was 100% New Ground for me.... but it was an incredible learning experience... balance, feeling a crease, reading the rock, and being unafraid to reach out, hold on, and pull yourself upwards... it was something new...

... a friend of mine in Alaska started me off gently... he showed me how it was done.... clinging by sore fingertips and pushing upwards on 1/4 inch toeholds.... forgetting that your fingers were bleeding and your muscles were in spasm... Ballet on a Vertical Plane, he called it... and although I felt it was somewhat more dangerous than ballet, I never disagreed.... after all, I was the student......

... he laughed once when I was performing a layback on a vertical crack at about fifty feet... I jammed my hand into the rock and made a fist... twisted it slightly and leaned back... my eyes searched upwards for the next hold while my right hand dropped down to the small of my back where the chalk bag sat.... one foot on the rock... one hand paining as it held my weight... I looked up and chalked my next hand while my right leg arched back for balance...

... I heard Sam laughing down at the belay point... "That's IT, Eric.. you got it!.... and hey, it doesn't matter if you stick that next move or not.. that was fucking awesome... " .... I looked down at him, momentarily distracted, the five-foot overhang looming above me ... "huh?... what the fuck are you talking about, Sam?.. I want to get to the top... shut the hell up, you are distracting me.."...

... "you're missing the point, killer," he yelled up at me, tightening the belay rope... "that kicked ass, just now... see, it isn't HOW you climb... but how you LOOK while you climb... and just now, well, you kicked this wall's ass... you were relaxed.. you were in control... you were focused... and THAT is the point.. even if you fall now, you were there, man.." ....

.. I never really understood what he meant by that, but I used the same terms when I started teaching my Scottish friends to climb two years later...

.... grace, focus, ballet on a vertical plane... sure, it matters if you make it to the top... but it is much more important for you to comfortable with the situation you are in... namely, hanging by a thread with burning muscles halfway up the face of a cliff...

... yesterday, that was been driven home to me again....

... something drew me to dig out my old climbing shirt.... just a simple white cotton long-sleeved shirt.. the front adorned with a red embroidered "Aum" symbol.. and the Eyes of Buddha on the back.... now, I'm no Buddhist... but I did spend the better part of this afternoon watching my Wife rescue wandering caterpillars and ensconce them in nearby trees as I sipped gin.... so I do feel a bit kindred.... on a purely existential level....

.. but other things too, have dredged up these memories.. memories of old tee-shirts and continually reaching... unafraid...

.... sometimes it doesn't matter if you fall, I guess... it just matters that you tried... and that you enjoyed one incredible time while you were there.... after all, conquering fears is not an easy thing.... if it were easy, it would not be called "conquering" to begin with....

.... still, it's not all goodness... there is nothing like that pinch in the groin that you feel once your fall ceases...... that sudden stop when the rope saves you.... and you swing suspended, grinning like an idiot.... muscles tired, lungs burning, adrenalin coursing through your veins from the unexpected fall.... and all you want to do is swing back in and give it another try....

... I went to sleep last night thinking of that... falling... and this morning it is still here...

by Eric on April 26, 2006 | Bullshit (8) | TrackBack (0) | SWG Stories
Bullshit So Far

the "zen" moment, it is what I live for....

Bullshitted by armywifetoddlermom on April 26, 2006 06:55 AM

I'll take you climbing out around the Ranger camp, then...

Bullshitted by RSM on April 26, 2006 07:47 AM

having no knowledge of ropes, harnesses, or knots

I was hoping like hell you hadn't picked up the fetish theme from T1G.

Bullshitted by phin on April 26, 2006 08:54 AM

Awesome! and thats from a guy who breaks out in a sweat standing on a table .Of course the wife says I must learn to sit at the table during meals.

Bullshitted by DanToom on April 26, 2006 01:10 PM

I've always wanted to try rock climbing. I've even looked into some commercial places, that are fake down here, just to try something even close. It just seemed like a good mental and physical exercise... and I never shy away from pushing the physical enveope.

Bullshitted by Bou on April 26, 2006 03:32 PM

Good post on fear...it's not just on the side of a cliff when fear can own us.

For me, the hardest part of climbing is never the climb itself...it's letting go and trusting someone else to rappel you to the bottom safely. THAT is the scary part.

Bullshitted by trouble on April 26, 2006 06:06 PM

dayum, as ye lack to say. thats sum fine ritin, sir.

Bullshitted by buddy don on April 26, 2006 06:49 PM

Nothing like the feeling of slamming into the wall below as your protection zippers for 75 feet. Waking to the incessant sound of the respirator...

Bullshitted by wil on April 27, 2006 02:50 AM