Thursday, December 31, 2009

what home is not

Last Christmas, as I pulled up to my apartment at the time after a week at my parents' spent celebrating and sprawling in front of the fire with a book for pretty much every waking moment, I remember surprising myself as the thought it's so good to be home flashed through my consciousness. I had lived away for about five years by that point, but had never really truly felt like my new life and space and world was totally mine. Truthfully, I felt kind of homeless, as my parents had been quick to convert my room to a guest room (which my brother promptly took over during his visits home from college) and stow my belongings and mementos in the attic. I'd been sleeping on the couch or sharing my sister's twin-size bed for a couple of years when I'd visit (actually, that's still how it goes, unless my brother isn't visiting). Arriving to my apartment last year and feeling like it was "home" was an unexpected reality.

And it wasn't that I minded feeling without home, as I had been eager to have my own space, unaware of the mental transition that would require. Like most nineteen-year-olds, I had been eager to have an apartment with roommates and a room of my own and the independence I expected from that. And that's mostly how it went. At what would have had to be Christmas 2007, I had arrived back after a short visit to my parents' to find our front door ajar and all of our belongings ransacked. Needless to say, I wasn't any too hesitant to want to be somewhere else for Christmas in 2008. Along the same lines, having had my car stolen a few times in the last few years only adds to my lack of connection to actual physical places and things.

This year, I managed about a five day visit for the holidays. I spent less time in front of the fire this time, something I now kind of wish I would have handled a little differently, but since I don't believe in regrets, pretend I didn't say that. Before that, I had been couch-hopping, more or less, for a few weeks, as I had taken a job housesitting and then gave up my room in my current living situation as a guest room for a few days (I'm a live-in nanny of sorts, so the family I live with had extended family coming to visit). I didn't realize until today how very soothing and refreshing and comforting it is to me to be in my own bed in my own space in my own rhythms. Last night was the first night I had been in my own bed in a few weeks, and I woke up feeling more like me than I have lately.

So this home thing. This place where I am now is home...for now. The actual physical location of my residence has changed a half dozen times in the last five years, so it's not so much the setting, I don't think. My favorite part about camping is setting up my tent and sorting out my belongings, and at the end of the day retiring to MY space. I prefer not to share a tent for this reason. As a child, I was most satisfied building forts or pretending boxes were castles, spending endless hours camped out on the lawn across from my brother's identical box. I don't even remember what we did other than that I relished the satisfaction of having my own corner of the world. In that corner, I don't have to be anything to anyone else, a pressure I realize I put on myself in the hubbub of daily activity. I guard that place and that time, and that feeling of home. I need a place where I'm not influenced by the opinions and expectations of others, however self-perceived they may be.

All this to I was made aware of just how special my home is to me these days.

Monday, December 28, 2009

identity and listening

As the year comes to a close, I feel like I should offer some profound, epically relevant and moving commentary on just how much these last twelve months have held for me, as a person and as a climber. In the same moment, I feel that trying to do that would just end up sounding trite and probably inadequately catalog just how full this year has been. I'll try anyways.

Sometimes, I am overwhelmed by the heady awareness of growth. This year, especially, I have been confronted with the stability of my own identity. As I've settled more and more into "me", whatever that actually means, I've been met with markedly more polarized reactions. I've decided (though I can't pinpoint when exactly) that I make no apologies for who and how I am. Does it mean I am static, decidedly without movement? Certainly not. It means I take each day for what it is, and that I seek out all the cracks and crevices and corners, trying not to categorize or stereotype or overanalyze but instead to just listen. I've spent far too many years of my relatively short life NOT listening to myself and not listening to what I need, to be mentally and physically and emotionally healthy. Sometimes, what I need is a good run around the block; other times, a few hours alone with a book; and, other times, a good conversation about faith and life over a tasty cup of tea. And in that listening, I feel better. I feel content.

And somehow, in the middle of all of this, I've become THAT girl...the one to whom people say "you're doing what the rest of us wish we could". This totally baffles me. Don't get me wrong, I'm flattered by such comments, but I'm no different. I'm no more, no less. I'm no braver, and certainly no better. Without sounding self-demeaning, I am normal. There's nothing particularly special about me. I have merely chosen to listen. When my chest gets tight at the thought of snowy mountain ranges and impossibly blue alpine skies, I just listen. I just enjoy that moment of my life, soaking it up and breathing it in.

Those moments have managed to arrange themselves into a series of sweet memories, of nostalgia-triggering adventures. I count myself duly blessed by the new friends I've had the privilege of meeting this year, many of them through Twitter and still others elsewhere. People like Rick (@RikRay) and Eileen (@rockgrrl), who ever so graciously included me on their Yosemite adventures this summer, teaching me not only to place cams and set anchors, but also to watch and trust and ask questions. To always ask questions. And Nina (@nsmonkeygirl), with whom I've shared many a comedic error (parking tickets, epic walk offs), or sweet Sara (@theclimbergirl), whose hug is like that of a friend you've known for decades. These warm people, among MANY others, have been central to my development as a climber and really, as a "grown up", whatever that means. My mom keeps telling me I am one, so I guess I had better figure out a way to define that in a way that works for me, right?

In what marks my first full year as a "climber", I've met many goals, both mentioned and unmentioned. I've been enveloped more fully in the outdoor community, feeling like I've finally figured out where I fit in the scheme of adulthood stereotypes.

This year, I started grad school, I quit my job, and I drastically changed my living situation. I went on my first interstate, for-the-hell-of-it solo trip involving trains and airplanes, and I learned to skydive. In all of that, I came to understand that a successful measure of time has nothing to do with how many minutes or hours or days or weeks are part of it, but how honestly and fully I live that time. I've been a student, a babysitter, a daughter, a success, a failure, an inspiration, a friend, and a convention. I've slept too little and talked too much.

Given that 2009 has been a self-percieved success, I hope for 2010 to hold just as much adventure and promise and potential. Mostly I just choose to wake up tomorrow and be in each moment as it comes, decidedly optimistic and characteristically stubborn. With that, good night and blessed dreams for your new year!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

old musings on autumn days

written 11/19/04

wrapped in the peace of a brisk afternoon
strides match the rhythm of a smooth melody
her quiet joy prevails against the piercing chill
every sense magnified
as the scent of autumn is haphazardly whispered
prompting a relentless desire for self-induced isolation
retreat from obligation

remembered I wrote this way back when and felt the same sentiments come rolling in on this gorgeous day.

Friday, December 11, 2009

beautiful moments

When life gets busy I have a hard time holding on to my enthusiasm. I try and grasp it so tightly that it gets all distorted, and then I'm there wondering what happened and why I feel so tired and anxious. Note to self: it's okay to be those things sometimes.

I've been taking a lot of pictures of the sky lately, especially at my favorite intersection on days when I can see the newly-whitecapped Sierras. That intersection, the moments I spend there each day...countless times the entire tone of my day has been set there. Many times I've been stopped short of breath for a second when I wasn't expecting the simple-but-arresting beauty of a place I see literally on a daily basis. From that intersection, I've watched the seasons change. From there, I can link a series of days and moods and memories and processes...and that unplanned ritual calms my fiery nostalgic heart.

Sometimes it's the little things. Because those little things, that sweet subtle joy I get from that daily perspective is what primes my spirit for chest-catching landscapes and wanderlust-inducing photographs. Between all the big, this-is-why-I-climb/skydive/travel/move moments there has to be some beauty too. And there is.

Monday, October 26, 2009

changes a-brewin'

Where to begin? These last couple of weeks have been a flurry of new things, and that's besides the usual hubbub of being a grad student! I can't tell you how many times I've jotted down a blog idea that I wanted to work through but when the day finally slowed down enough for me to sit at the computer I could hardly keep my eyes open!

Lots of new things have been taking place in my life, some personal and some less personal. I got a new job, which I'm terribly excited about. I'm still going to be transitioning into it for a couple months yet, and I'm a little nervous because it'll be replacing my main job that I've been at for nearly four years. I'll be sure to tell more as I know more, and probably even spotlight the facility in a future post...

Which brings me to my next order of business...I'm moving on over to Zherpa blogs to be part of their network, which means you won't see much here. I'm still going to keep this blog, and occasionally post more family/close-friend oriented blogs, but I will primarily be over at Zherpa henceforth. So, if you follow me, be sure to change up your links! Click here to be directly taken to that page. There is still some formatting to be done in the next couple days, so be patient...:) The transition is still a work in progress, but I promise to get on it.

Have been jumping quite a bit lately, even went up to Lodi for a few jumps, which was neat! This past weekend I hit 25 jumps, which is my first real milestone and with a few more objectives to knock out I can apply for my A license!

That about covers it...I hope you all have a wonderful week and a fun Halloween. Any really creative costumes planned?

Monday, October 12, 2009

sometimes you get what you came for

My life seems to be least stressful not when I don't have things going on, but when I can organize what I do have going on into lists. I make lists on a daily basis. Sometimes I number the tasks, or I assign times or make lists within lists. If I'm worried, I list. If I'm bored, I list. I have been making packing lists since elementary school--for such things as sleepovers and trips to Grandma's house. I'm sure this indicates some kind of pathology, but for now let's just consider it a charming quirk.

So this alleged charming quirk came into play once again when packing for a trip up to Yosemite with a class from my university. As a class, we split into teams, and our objective for the weekend was to complete a digital scavenger hunt throughout the park. I had one teammate, Chelsea, and we decided our team uniform would be tie dyed t-shirts. I managed to save this little arts and crafts project for 2 a.m. the night before we left for the trip, nevermind that it was my first tie dye project to date. I was relatively pleased with the results, however, despite the fact that they didn't turn out exactly how I expected.

After a day at work that was sorely tainted with the knowledge that comes from being tortured by the awareness that your car is completely packed for an adventure, I picked Chelsea up at her apartment and we set off to meet our cabinmates at the supermarket. I informed her that unless she flat-out objected, we would be listening to at least three episodes of the Dirtbag Diaries on the way up to camp. Luckily, she obliged.

The ride up was uneventful if not boring, save for Fitz (@dirtbagdiaries) and his colleagues to every once in a while leave both Chelsea and me with goosebumps. There are some things that resonate deeply and unexpectedly, and I was glad to get to share that with Chelsea as well.

We arrived at Curry a little early, so we camped on the deck outside the Mountain Shop for a spell, where I notified Pang (@pangtastic) that we had arrived. He and I had tentatively planned to meet up because, well...why not? Twitter friends should be real friends too. Once he came over and Chelsea and our cabinmates realized I was going to park myself on the deck and talk climbing for a while, they went to grab a pizza for dinner.

After talking with Pang, I most certainly have a stronger interest in learning to ice climb. It's not something I have ever really aspired to learn, but the more I read about it and talk about it, the more I think “that could perhaps be on my radar sounds promisingly miserable--right up my alley”. I have learned that I am much happier when bruised, cold, tired, and covered in camp dirt.

Eventually, we unpacked and our instructor came around to the (blech) tent cabins to give us our lists and mascots. Chelsea and I selected a small plastic lion we named Excelsior Lionel, and what a photogenic plastic feline he turned out to be. Our ambitious cabinmates decided to set out on a nighttime hike to the summit of Half Dome. We determined that wasn't for us this trip and instead donned our “uniforms” and removed our shoes for our own leg of the hunt. For whatever reason, we thought it would be a fun idea to do the whole scavenger hunt barefoot. Probably my idea, to be perfectly honest.

So, barefoot and clad in tie dye, plastic lion in tow, we managed to check a fair amount off our list. We visited the cemetery (at night!) and the post office and the dental office. The highlight of the evening was our high-speed gallivant through the Awahnee, where we surprisingly didn't get in trouble with any of the employees for our blatant disregard of socially acceptable ambulation speeds.

By now, spirits were riding high and we were just about convinced jumping in the Merced River in the dead of night was a good idea. All of the excitement and adrenaline came to a screeching halt when we accidentally took a wrong turn. Instead of turning into the proper entrance to the Camp 4 parking lot, I pulled in too early into a clearing. Realizing my mistake, I promptly pulled out, only to be met with flashing red and blue lights.

Now, despite what you may believe about me, I am absolutely terrified of getting in trouble. I have a knack for being in the wrong place in the wrong time, though, and have no talent whatsoever for arguing my way out of a ticket. I have never once been able to successfully do so. Apparently being cooperative and scared out of your mind does not incite police officers to be merciful.

So I got a citation. In a national park. For offroad traveling. I DRIVE A CIVIC. Talk about a buzzkill. Chelsea and I had no desire to keep on going that night, so we went back to the tent cabin to plan out the next day's agenda.

After only a few hours of sleep, the alarm I had set for 4 a.m. woke us and we groggily assembled our wits for the 45 minute drive up to Glacier point to see the sun rise. It was kind of cold, especially in bare feet and sweatpants, and I'm pretty sure the other early risers only had a moderate appreciation for my obnoxious sense of humor at that hour of the morning, judging by their responses to my probably-too-loud comments and observations.

It was pretty incredible to see the Valley transform as the sun rose behind Half Dome. Perhaps my favorite part of any day, especially a day outdoors, is the twilight just before the actual sunrise. It's so full of potential and anticipation, but in a way that I can count on. Each new day brings that new potential with each sunrise. It's anticipation, but with structure. I like that.

Despite rising early, our day didn't really kick off until about lunchtime. Once the sun rose, we drove on back down to camp for breakfast and coffee (which I require daily without excuse) and an evaluation of the day's plans, with an itemized to-do list so we could check off specific objectives. The day turned into mostly a series of silly faces and interesting conversations. Luckily, neither Chelsea nor I had any qualms about approaching strangers, and given the global appeal of the Yosemite Valley, there's quite a diverse population of strangers to choose from.

My “favorite experience of the day” is a toss-up between getting one move higher on Midnight Lightning (which is going to take me about a decade to send, seeing as I'm no V8 climber) and jumping into the (very cold!) Merced River in my jeans. By the end of the day, though, Chelsea and I were happily tired, and headed back to camp an hour early, where we met up with our instructor and his wife to shoot the breeze and eat some dinner.

Dinner turned into a marathon gab session as a few friends of mine stopped by our table throughout the evening. While we were sitting there, we found out that one of our class teams was still on Half Dome. This wouldn't have been a big deal, except for that they had begun the hike about 20 hours prior, had an injured/severely dehydrated team member, and were more than five miles from the trailhead. Quite a disaster. Our instructor left immediately as soon as he realized they would need some assistance getting down the trail. He made it up to them and managed a couple updates here and there when they got cellular service. Ultimately, they didn't get to the trailhead until approximately 24 hours after they had started their hike.

There is value in knowing your limits and preparing for achieving an objective. There is also value in testing those limits. If I was in a similar situation, when would I have quit? When would I have turned back and for what reason? If I was capable but a teammate wasn't, how would I have proceeded? Would I have been a leader, and if I was, would I have been a good one? While I was not immediately connected with this particular situation, it most certainly resonated with me. Thankfully, everyone made it down to camp okay, and in remarkably good spirits considering their ordeal.

The next morning, we slept in, which meant that we had to rush to pack up to make it to the Mariposa Grove by our 10 a.m. appointment. Chelsea and I had a hard time getting ourselves together and arrived about 30 minutes late. Thankfully, because of the excitement of the night before, we weren't the last to arrive nor did anyone mind that we were late.

Those trees are so...big. Looking at the sequoias in the grove, perceiving their mass and presence--you can't help but wish they could speak and tell their stories. Who has been there? What secrets have been told among those trees? When all the people have left, what remains--what sounds, what smells, what thoughts? It's places like that where I feel present, when I am at a definite point in the universe, where before collides with after.

I made it home in time for one quick jump at my dropzone, which seems to be how it goes these days. I'm too busy to come out for a whole day, so I end up squeezing in a jump or two on an afternoon when I should have been studying instead. But being at the dropzone and being part of that activity and that pace helps to make the rest of it--the massively busy balance of classes and work and home life--a little easier. There's nothing like 10,500 feet of perspective to help the rest of it all make sense.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

not fearless

“...being brave doesnt mean you're not afraid--it means overcoming your fear. I have learned that I want to live until I die.”

Fittingly enough, the above quote was the last line in an article in a skydiving magazine, but it articulates a sentiment that I can appreciate. There have been many times I've been absolutely frightened beyond what I thought I could handle, but just as many times I've gotten to experience the growth that comes with making a decision about that fear. I remember hiking the Mist Trail to Vernal Falls as a kid and having to deal with some serious fear--it was all I could do to put one foot in front of the other. One. Step. At. A. Time. Same thing the first time I did the cables on Half Dome (and second time, because apparently I like that sort of thing). Many moments while climbing--usually when I pause, or at an anchor--I have suddenly felt aware of my fear and had to choose to act despite being afraid.

And it's not some high I'm chasing. I experience no flood of overwhelming emotion when I reach an objective. I am glad when I reach my goals, but I appreciate the process as well. For this reason, I find that I rarely cry at what are supposed to be monumental events, like graduations and weddings. I've had time to consider the implications of failure and success and decide how I would like to respond.

On Sunday, I was frightened. I was inexplicably nervous the entire day I was at the dropzone. I am perhaps most fearful at takeoff, because it is the moment of commitment. Once that plane is in the air, I have a very finite amount of time to mentally prepare for the skydive. I always review the process of the jump, from exit to landing, multiple times until I can see myself doing it completely--much like sending a difficult bouldering problem. When I realize my body is tense, I have to take a deep breath and exhale all the nervous energy.

Skydiving for me has become very much a process of evaluating the possible outcomes of a decision and accepting any of those outcomes. If I'm doing a formation jump, we might not complete the formation. If I'm trying a new skill, I might not be able to do it right away. If my parachute malfunctions, I may have to deploy my reserve. If I don't flare correctly when landing my canopy, I might have a hard landing. And then there's the always the possibility of factors I don't anticipate, like a midair collision or a strange wind or a double malfunction (neither parachute does its job), any of which could seriously injure or kill me or another person. How do you wrap your head around being okay with those outcomes? Any of them?

I'm not fearless. I don't claim to have fear all figured out. But I'm glad it's there. Fear forces me to make decisions and to learn from their consequences. Frankly, I'm afraid of a lot, and on a daily basis. But I can't let that fear incapacitate me. I can't be so afraid to fail that I don't try. And learning to apply that principle to other aspects of my life--relationships, career goals--is a challenge I'd like to accept.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

live it anyway

I'm in a kayak. I'm not really sure exactly how this reference started, but it caught on some months ago with the climbing crew--especially the girls--I hang with. I'm sure that our Monday night pub excursions (complete with doorjamp pullup contests/initiations) definitely helped it along, as they became a place for us to defrag after a climbing session and as we learned to let our guards down with each other we learned to make light of our respective relationship statuses. We came up with an elaborate framework of boat-related references to describe all means of relationship status that still holds water (er, pardon the bad pun) to this day. A kayak, by our definition, indicates that the individual is happily single and on the prowl, but not for a significant other...but for adventure. And so I happily reside in my kayak these days.

In fact, I'd say I'm pretty darn happy most days. Which is why an occasional down day or series of down days can catch me by surprise and send me thinking. I'm more often inexorably happy than not. When I'm not...why is that?

Well, there's the idea that every action has an equal and opposite reaction...or something like that. Which means that when I am up in the stratosphere, excited as all-get-out, there is usually an equal and opposite downturn within a few days that sends me reeling and scrambling to self-medicate with more climbing and probably way too much coffee, and even sometimes solitude.

I've been pursuing all of these things in the last several months that I enjoy very much. I have been able to focus a lot of energy on climbing harder and better and learning to skydive, and I love having the mental and emotional freedom to do those things. It would be hard for me (I say for me, because others might find it easier than I do) to hasten after these pursuits were I not in my kayak, so to speak. And so, I'd venture to say that I've had the opportunity to learn a lot about myself lately.

I learned to say no. I've never been good at saying no, and now the conflict lies not in my ability to say it, but in my ability to not be agitated when I decide to say it. It took me having the opportunity to chase after goals that were uniquely and solely mine and recognizing that to give me a different perspective. I still struggle with “no” every time, but I have a sense of ownership of that decision that I didn't perceive before.

Infused with the cluelessness and persistent optimism of being a 20-something, still perhaps shedding some of the trappings of adolescence, there's a good deal of uncertainty that seems to linger on the periphery. That said, if nothing else, I've learned in the last several years that nothing is certain and that many of the expectations that I held for myself just a few years ago are mostly irrelevant. There's something to be said for figuring out how to hold dreams and then chase them with your whole heart. And no one really teaches you how to do that. One of the things I LOVE about being a counseling student is that my classes are full of people who refuse to stop's contagious.

I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up except a dreamer and doer. And since those aren't really all that tangible, I think it best to take it all one day at a time, living fully. And that means that some days I'll feel all full of vim and vigor (and maybe even a little “rawr”) and others I might need to spend some time on the downswing. I'm gonna have to be okay with that, and live it anyway.

The very basic core of a man's living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun. -Christopher McCandless

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

it's all about perspective

I've been meaning to blog since Sunday, but every time I sit down to do it the things I thought I wanted to write down just don't seem to form themselves into cohesive utterances. So...I think I'm just gonna roll with that and go a little more freeform on this one. How 'bout it?

Things I Like:

-riding bikes with friends
-having one of those moments where you just feel ALIVE
-how Tiger Balm smells kinda like Christmas
-going to the movies by myself twice in a week
-seeing the people around me smile
-much-needed climbing crew reunions at the pub
-how pumped I get for school once classes actually start
-diet dr. pepper with Sonic ice
-random texting with the bff from college
-birthday minutes
-planning trips to visit friends near and far
-being the kind of person who can get completely engrossed in a movie
-being the kind of person who can barely sit still
-my favorite Tweeps, who constantly brighten my day
-having shower days and non-shower days
-being barefoot as much as possible
-my ceiling fan
-hanging out with kids
-random dance spazzout sessions at the climbing gym
-talking to my grandma on the phone
-talking to anyone in my family on the phone
-thinking about my amazing little sister
-talking about my amazing little sister
-my amazing little sister

I think that's a good start. For now at least! :)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

notes from the backcountry

It all started with a delicious pepperoni pizza. Now, the first time I hiked Half Dome, I indulged without incident in eating pizza & a pint pre-hike, so I thought this would be fine, especially considering that this hike in was only 3 miles and 3 fairly flat miles at that.

Wrong wrong wrong. Nothing about that tasty pizza settled and I spent the first two miles of the hike convinced my appendix was going to burst at any minute. We're not talking some nausea here. I quite literally almost cried with how much it hurt. (Not that I would cry. I don't cry. I make Chuck Norris cry.) Finally, it got a little better and my countenance shifted back to normal, which is really more like “excited puppy” and tends to freak a lot of people out.

Arriving at camp was fairly anticlimactic. We set up camp without incident and shortly therafter broke out our camp dishes for some grubbin'. Everyone stayed pretty close to camp and we got a good fire going in our pit. There was what I consider unnecessary haste in bear bagging our foodstuffs, but I'm not the boss. I went over to watch the bear bagging occur so that I could reverse the process in the morning as I am an early riser at camp. (Why this is not also true back home I don't know. Though I wish it were.) Before I knew it, I was the one rigging the bear bag, utilizing a couple of my favorite climbing knots to rig it up, much to the surprise of my male campmates.

We then returned to the campfire for more chatter with the neighboring campers. The conversation lasted until the fire died down to ember, and then we parted ways towards our respective sleeping arrangements.

As expected, I woke up absurdly early, forcing my body to sleep until at least 7. I won that battle, but just barely. I happily navigated down to water's edge to filter some breakfast water, then brewed myself some delicious coffee with my oatmeal. The only problem with this situation is that by the time everyone else is finally crawling out of their tents, I am fully caffeinated & probably singing nonsense songs. Not exactly the best way to make friends in the morning.

All things considered, the morning was quiet and lazy, as a Saturday morning should be. We didn't do much of anything until a group decided to head to the caves for a little bit of exploration. I stayed back, enjoying the rarity of a quiet camp. While the rest of the crew was gone, more of our party arrived on site & started setting up camp.

When everyone got back from 'sploring the caves, we donned our swimsuits for what was supposed to be a refreshing turn in the lake. Most everyone got in and some went fishing instead. I decided to give the cliff jumping a go. It is NOT fair that I am not allowed to be a little skittish about dropping 30 feet into water off a veritable cliff. “Why are you scared? You jump out of planes!” is not my favorite thing to hear as I'm trying to muster the cajones to hurl myself off said rock into said (cold) lake.

Nevertheless, I finally took the plunge and that was that. Once was enough, though. I scrambled back up the granite boulders to our campsite and promptly fell asleep on the rock behind our tent. After my little nap, I changed out of my wet swimsuit and into my climbing shoes, which had arrived just hours prior thanks to A, who had also hiked in my MadPad. We assembled a small group of would-be climbers to explore the boulders near camp, which mostly consisted of the dads and their kids and me. I inadvertently inserted the word “sketchball” into the vocabularies of the three kids (ages 9, 8, & 7) during our little climbing excursion. We didn't do anything super crazy, but definitely found a few fun problems to pump out on.

Everyone started trickling back towards camp as dinnertime loomed, and eventually we all found ourselves back at the campfire, hungry and tired and dirty. A discussion ensued over the superiority of certain freeze-dried meals over others, and I've decided that I'd rather have a pocketrocket over a jetboil, though both are pretty sassy compared to the Coleman my dad used to bring to camp when we were kids. I ate a dinner almost exclusively consisting of rice, which was slightly disappointing if not filling. You can't always win. And I like rice, so it works, I guess.

Following dinner, we sat around the campfire, stoking it with the sparse logs A was able to gather. I managed at one point during the evening to drop both my hat and headlamp actually IN to the fire, and pulled them out fairly intact save for the horrible burnt plastic smell that still lingers all over the hat. Good thing I had a 2nd one to wear to bed that night. We roasted marshmallows and played with sticks in the fire. I sent smoke signals on over to @theclimbergirl, but she says she didn't get them. So now my campmates think I'm nuts and @theclimbergirl didn't even get my message. Good thing I think she's rad anyways. :) Worth people thinking I'm extra nuts for sure.

Sunday I couldn't sleep past 6:15 and woke up just minutes before the sun peeked over the mountain across the lake. I pulled down the bear bag, enjoyed a quiet breakfast and a lazy morning as the rest of camp slowly rose to meet the day. I enjoyed a lovely conversation with the fellow at the next camp, and as we talked we realized we had attended the same wedding in my hometown back in 2001. Even the backcountry is a small world, I guess! We're now FB friends with plans to backpack again someday.

Come late morning, we started packing up camp for the hike out. I stubbornly volunteered to pack out my MadPad, a situation which required some creative rigging and extremely tentative balancing. It was figured out, though, and I managed to hike the three miles out with only four rest stops.

There was a much-needed pizza stop on the way out, where we washed our dirt-embedded hands in the restroom sink. Everyone else in the restaurant looked so clean! I dozed most of the two hours home, trying not to upset my slightly sunburnt face. Upon arriving home, I first jumped in the pool with the kids, then promptly unpacked, happily wrapping myself in the delicious aroma of camp as I prepared my laundry and sorted my gear and food out.

Now, with everything put away, I'm anxious for the next adventure! If everything goes as planned, I'll have at least one trip each month until November, which would be wonderful, and then next season will be here before we know it.

Katiebeth: Young Adventurer Extraordinaire (or something like that...)

P.S. I'd appreciate it if the power company would remove whatever cell tower was giving us reception up there. It's not real backcountry if I can Twitter! (and I haven't the willpower not to. I love my Tweeps too much.)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


The theme of transparency seems to be recurring in my life. And each time it pokes its little head out, I seem to learn something new. I can remember the first time I was really aware of the concept was in junior high school. I would get so frustrated with the flippancy with which people would use “how are you?” in conversation, and so I learned to make a point of smiling and making eye contact and asking questions because, well, I knew I liked it when people treated me that way so it made sense. I'm not saying I had this whole thing dialed by any means, but it's the earliest I can recall transparency being something I recognized in relationships.

I usually can read people pretty well, and have always had a hard time with difficult-to-read individuals and feeling comfortable with them. I think this has all to do with my deep-seated desire to be liked and appreciated because if I know how I am being reacted to and understood, I feel more comfortable. I have more control. (I'm really hoping this isn't some kind of pathology I don't know about...) Growing up I strove to achieve because it was the venue through which I received positive feedback. It was a priority for me to be appreciated that way because it was better than the alternative. (Just for the record, I was very much loved as a child and never doubted this.) It seemed like it was easy in our household to get noticed by doing something wrong, so I wanted to do right things.

And that translates kind of strangely through adolescence. It affected my faith in that I developed little patience for hypocrisy and definitely stirred up a tenderheartedness that has gotten me into trouble more than a few times. I've had to learn the hard way how to say no and how to rest, usually at the expense of those closest to me. They see all the ugly, all the times when I'm frustrated and tired and all my buttons have been pushed and I'm so drained I haven't the energy to be helpful to anyone.

So then comes college and with it the joys of self-discovery, identity formation and social networking websites. What a recipe. My undergrad years coincided rather disastrously with the advent of MySpace and Facebook. Not that it was a disaster for me, but that I think these things have contributed to a very unique generation of young adults. We have friends all over the world we've never met, and aren't even aware of the degree to which we manipulate our images via our respective social networking addictions. Now, having friends all over the world isn't all bad. In fact, I love Facebook and Twitter and use them on a regular basis. I love having friends accessible to me pretty much any time of the day.

And that's probably not so good.

It's not my friends' jobs to be available to affirm me or make me feel wanted when I want to feel wanted. It's not their responsibility to be on the other end of the phone always or respond to every text I send. So why in the world do we get so caught up in this delicate construct of relationship that's essentially built on “what I want you to know about me”? And in saying this I'm not arguing for total and complete transparency because that's a safety issue. (I grew up being told I would be murdered by anyone I told my name/age/location/favorite color to. Wait, maybe that last one was a Monty Python thing...anyways...)

And this whole issue resurfaced today in a conversation with a fellow blogger and very dear IRL friend. (Check out her site at last post was a VERY sweet entry about yours truly that very nearly made me tear up!) She informed me that a blog we both follow was under some fire because of some choices the blogger made in the amount and type of information she chose to share through her blog. There were some lack of truths involved and frankly the whole situation kind of unsettled me. We can be so very interested in the type and amount of attention we receive via our cyberspace communities that we not only distort transparency but we lose the chance to develop it in our real lives.

Because I really shouldn't get upset when Twitter's down. It's a chance for me to focus on the people right in front of me, with no distractions. As much as I care for each and every person within my favorite little Twitter community, that must always be tempered by an even greater focus on the people around me. And an openness to reviewing each thing I say in cyberspace as a tiny fragment of who I am, aware of how I might be inadvertently manipulating how it might be perceived. I need a willingness to be called out, both here and in real life.

So, friends, if I ask nothing else of you, I ask that you never be hesitant to call me out. I want to be transparent through all aspects of communication, from conversation to text to Facebook to Twitter to gchat to good old-fashioned letters. :) For your sake and mine.

Monday, August 10, 2009

falling...with style

In case you haven't already heard me say it, graduating from AFF is perhaps more exciting and more awesome than graduating from college. First of all, it's the opposite with regards to the “what do I do now?” feeling. When you graduate AFF, you know EXACTLY what to do...go skydive! The sky is your limit, literally. :)

Saturday I got a late start up to the dropzone which turned out to be okay since it was a pretty busy morning of tandems. For all the hours I spend there, most of them are spent chatting and doing handstands and talking about jumping with anyone and everyone. And packing, when there's packing to be done.

It's always fun when a big group comes out to the hangar to cheer on a friend or family member. There's so much excitement in the air. I think that it's easy to forget just how thrilling that first jump can be, and how from the perspective of most of the population, a tandem skydive is extreme. Even with as few jumps as I have, I find myself separating my experiences from theirs'...and while yes, it is different to BE a skydiver than it is to go for a ride on a tandem rig, we're all getting to do something exhilarating and fun and exciting. That never changes. So I try to be as welcoming and open and non-elitist as possible at all times. :)

Anyways, back to AFF. Mom runs our loads, fitting in the students and the up jumpers (the non-tandems) around the tandem loads so that everyone gets a chance to fly. She figures out who's coming up when, who needs to be where when, and lets us know when our load is going to be. If I've learned one thing from G, it's to always be ready--physically AND mentally--for a jump. Sometimes it's only five minute's notice to manifest for your load if we're busy or something opens up.

We reviewed the dive plan for level 7, and then found out that A would be my instructor instead of G. A was an instructor of mine a few levels ago but not since I dropped to one instructor, so I had never jumped without G. G reads me well. He knows I need the pressure put on me a little bit, but that I have a tendency to be tense because I'm a perfectionist. A is much more mellow, which I think worked out perfectly come jump time. I knew and G knew that my struggle with this dive would be to relax and be confident, something I think was easier for me--for whatever reason--with A. G taught me SO MUCH that I was ready for the jump, and so having A there who is more relaxed just set me up for a good jump. Plus I wanted to do G proud. :)

All during the ride to altitude, I consciously held on to positive feelings and positive thoughts, acknowledging my fear--both of jumping itself and of getting it all wrong--but deciding that I was going to have a great jump no matter what. The pressure was off in a way, because I felt more confident of my skills as a skydiver, so even if I tanked like a rockstar I'd just get to jump again. Which is NEVER all bad. Who doesn't want more time in the sky?

The exit was great and I had no problems stabilizing. I launched into a backflip and recovered pretty well, if not a little flat. But I caught A's eyes, who motioned for me to arch harder which I did. Then it was time for turns, one in each direction, followed by a forward track, which I seem to be getting the hang of a little better. Wave off and pull and I knew so long as I didn't tank my landing pattern that it was a successful dive and I'd get to move on.

I have a terrible habit of ending up waaaaaaaay far away from the hangar and having to pretty much hike back across the field. More embarassing than anything else and it's definitely a matter of learning the altitudes for a pattern and manipulating the canopy for a good solid landing. Because if everything else goes wrong on a skydive, you really want the landing to be successful, right?

I took a short break and then almost immediately got ready for my last student jump, called a hop-n-pop. A hop-n-pop is when you exit at the altitude at which you'd usually wave off and pull to inflate your canopy, which is exactly what you do. They drop you at 4500 feet and you immediately stabilize and pull. It's to practice for an emergency exit. Mine went fine. G said it'd be scary, but I didn't find it particularly scary--I knew what I needed to do and I did it.

Since everyone else on the load was going to altitude, I got down a lot sooner than they did and started packing my canopy. As soon as A got down and confirmed the pass with D, D announced to the hangar that there was a new skydiver--me! I was immediately dogpiled on and hugged and congratulated profusely. Finishing the pack job was probably a good way for me to equalize a little before leaving (early--I had a baby shower to get to!). I view packing like I view belaying--a little bit boring, entirely necessary, and wonderfully therapeutic. It's physical, so I am moving, and it requires my attention, but I have a little bit of mental space to think and process as I pack. I love that.

I hugged my new “family” before I left, and as I got in the car to leave I literally had goosebumps I was so terribly excited. I didn't call my regular family or friends for the first few minutes of the drive. I wanted to settle into the reality on my own, and frankly, you could have told me I was nuts or silly or stupid or anything and I wouldn't have cared. I wanted to enjoy the feeling of accomplishing that goal as something that I had singularly fought for and desired and reached. Not to make anyone else happy--for once. :) And that's special to me.

I went to the baby shower (for a dear friend I haven't seen since her wedding last year!) and later hung out with J, S & R. We slacklined and went swimming and tried to learn to juggle in the dark. I got home a little after midnight and veritably crashed. Falling asleep as soon as I hit the pillow has not been a problem for me lately, that's for sure.

Sunday morning I got up and went to church (late) and taught my class (I have the three-year-olds...and they were all boys today) then headed out to the dropzone kind of on a whim. I should have stayed in town for a rehearsal, but I took a bye and called to make sure I could get on a load. As soon as I got up to the hangar, D was already rigging up a canopy for me to jump. I packed it in the quiet hangar and waited for my friends to drop out of the sky.

Once they were down we had a little bit of time to organize our load with who was doing what. It was decided we'd do a tracking dive--something pretty simple and fun for a first solo jump for me, especially on an unfamiliar rig.

I felt familiarly nervous as we climbed to altitude, but this time it had much less to do with how I'd perform and all to do with just getting on top of the power curve and being in control of my dive. The jump went pretty well, save for the fact that I tracked with the wind...which, since it was not particularly windy was okay, but could have put us too far south. Ah, well. It worked out fine. I was aware of the other jumpers flying beside me and it was really really really really really cool to just get to FLY with them. I think it was the first time I've smiled in freefall. We were close to each other, able to make eye contact. We flew. Like birds. Sigh.

The canopy I was flying was considerably smaller than the gigantic student rigs I've been flying and so it was a lot more dynamic especially with turns. I tried to get a good feel for the canopy well before it was time to set up for the landing pattern. The landing went all right, save for the fact that I landed a liiiiittle too hard, but still ran it out and stood it up. I might be a little stiff for a couple days, but no biggie. It's those last few feet of altitude that'll make all the difference, you know? It's all part of learning.

And the day just got better. I set the canopy up for the pack job and then went to pay D for the jump (not being a student is SO much cheaper!). He informed me that not only was he planning to just give me the main I had just jumped (was S's old canopy--a 170 square foot main) but that A (one of the pilots who also jumps) wanted to give me her container/harness and reserve. And I get to use her automatic activation device until her new rig comes in. I could have cried, if I was a crier. I was literally given an entire functioning rig. Now my expenses are going to be much more manageable--things like a jumpsuit and a helmet and goggles and altimeter. Expensive, still, but hey, I have a birthday coming up...*wink wink, nudge nudge*

I'm still totally flabbergasted by their generosity--they have no idea how much they have just blessed me, almost a stranger considering how long I've been jumping. So that brings my grand total to 10 jumps counting my tandem back in May...I think I can make 25 for an A license by my birthday in November, right?

It was a good weekend and I'm a little bit sad to be missing all next weekend since I'm going backpacking (for the first time!) but then school will start and schedules will change and it's only two weeks until my next free weekend...I promise not to wait that long to blog, even if it's just about ponies or dinosaurs or sharks or...please, leave a comment about your weekend or direct me to your blog if I don't read already! I'd love to hear about others' adventures. :)

Blue skies!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

on living at the hilt

Some days I want to hide under my covers. I don't want to get up, I don't want to be responsible or punctual or even brush my teeth. I want to close my eyes and cover my ears and sometimes I even could go for a hug.

I often get caught up in my own hurricane of a personality before I realize what's happening. I end up feeling pulled in sixty-seven different directions, and in those moments all I want to do is go climb. Climbing settles me because no matter how in a tizzy I am when I start, I have to set that aside. Skydiving is proving to be the same. I am forced to focus and forced to physically process any stress or tension or conflict. All the things I have to do and be and say are irrelevant for those minutes. Climbing and jumping play on my tendency to hyperfocus and to be lost completely in whatever demands the most attention from me. I haven't decided yet whether that's good or bad.

So frequently I get drained by how much I care and how much I want to make other people happy. I will never be able to shake completely that's a part of who I am. I genuinely enjoy seeing others fulfilled & loved. It heartens me to know that the people around me are cared for. This can come at an expense, which I willingly accept. Eventually, though it comes around to me feeling selfish when I pursue the things I want to do. I know this is silly, but I'm hardwired that way. To convince myself that it's okay to want to be alone and to say no takes all I can muster sometimes! And when people try to tell me these things, it's even more frustrating. I KNOW I'm busy. I KNOW I don't have to say yes. I KNOW it's okay to rest. I get it. I don't need to be admonished in that regard, thanks.

And right now there's a lot of things that are vying for my attention--hence the wanting to hide under the covers. So many forms and projects and tasks that don't have a set time to be done, so they just loom over the periphery of everything else, threatening to send me into a panic attack when I think on them too much. My initiative wanes, because I'm exhausted before I even start. That said, I'm certainly not living in a cloud of distress, but I have my moments.

So when people ask why I do what I do for fun, I don't have a great answer. I do those things because they can match the intensity and fervor with which I process the rest of life. They seem to fit. And those things can be an escape, a place to explore my fears and limits, but eventually the ground comes quickly and I have to plant my legs, shinsplints and all, on some solid ground so I can step purposefully toward the next moment. Because even if I'm not sure where I'm going, I want to get there on purpose.

Sunday, August 2, 2009


My family came by the dropzone today. They were headed up the state, I had a rig to pack (S leaves the student canopies for me to pack so I can learn how to do it) and a free afternoon so it worked out.

Funny thing was, that "feeling" I've started to have since I started taking climbing more seriously was at an all-time high. Since this is an unfamiliar thing for me to experience, I don't know if it crosses over and is just part of the whole "growing up" thing or not. I've spent a good part of my life doing as I was told, looking for approval and achieving what I was "supposed to". It's something I struggle with always, but am learning gradually to let go of.

I'm going to go ahead and make climbing the scapegoat here, since climbing is sort of what got everything going--led to slacklining and eventually I'd say even skydiving. The attitudes I developed, the confidence, the way I fit with these activities in a way I'd never fit with other sports. The people I met--a veritable smorgasboard of smart, warm, adventurous individuals that I have loved spending time with.

And the more I become the person I am most comfortable being, the me that I like the most, the more I realize that's not so much what I had in mind, and perhaps not even what was expected of me. And that's a harsh reality, because in my mind "smart kids" like me don't struggle with this, they just get through school, get a respectable "smart kid" job, and everything is sunshine and butterflies.

How is it that I am engaged in a daily battle where some days I'm so happy I'm beside myself and ready to take the world by storm and other days I'm petrified that I am merely scratching an itch and eventually these passions will fade away and then I'll be a shoulda-coulda-woulda who used to have potential? I understand that it is all a balance (which is sometimes a difficult concept for my stubborn mind to wrap itself around) and that everything has an ebb and flow.

And right now, I'm okay with that. So long as at the end of the day I know that I gave it my all, I'll be just fine. It's just hard when a family is as tight knit as mine is and I feel absolutely on the fringe, like I'm not on the grid where I can even relate these things and what they mean to me.

So then skydiving and climbing become something bigger. Something uniquely defining and not just in the way that people look at you and go "you're crazy" or "you're hardcore" or "what's with all the extreme sports?", but in the way that I feel like I am pursuing things that make me terribly happy. And experiencing that doubt just becomes part of the whole thing...knowing that I am the one making choices and having to own them.

more learning to fly

Confession: I am a control freak with performance anxiety. I like to know what's going on and how to respond to it and how everything works and...well, you get the idea.

Jumped levels 5 and 6 today, and packed four rigs. (Two student rigs, an under-100 and G's wingsuit rig...more later on all that). I was on my way to the dropzone immediately after breakfast and didn't pull in the driveway until after 11 p.m. I arrived at around 10 a.m. and took it easy for a couple hours, watching S pack and trying my best to get into some calculated mischief. We went out to catch a couple of tandems and I managed to get munched on by our friendly neighborhood mosquitoes (they LOVE me) before it clicked why people always talk about their skydiving stuff smelling like Deet. The skeeters come out in full force in the nice green tandem landing area. They leave the student landing area alone cause it's dry and full of pokeys.

Anyways. On level 5, I had to learn to be much more stable in my turns and turn all the way around instead of only a 180 like in level 4. After said jump, I packed the 300 square foot student canopy (which I did NOT fly...waaaaaay too big) with some assistance. Let me tell you, I understand now why skydivers can sometimes--how to put this--have a “mouth” on them. Getting that thing situated with all of its risers (the cords that connect everything) and material and keeping it neat and organized and getting it stuffed into that tiiiiiiiiiny little bag is enough to elicit some choice verbage, that's for sure. A couple of times I had to up and walk away from pack jobs because I was letting my frustration get the better of me. I would calm down and come back later to finish up. I then packed my own student rig.

Somewhere in there, I packed J's rig, which is less than 100 square feet. Smaller square footage = more dynamic performance. It was definitely a change from the gigantic student rigs, that's for sure. Then G grabbed me to discuss level 6's skydive--back layouts and tracking AND a solo exit, meaning I let go of the plane without any instructor assistance, stabilize, and fly. For the whole jump, G doesn't touch me unless I'm going to kill myself. Also I got to try my hand at spotting and having an instructor on my left instead of my right as he has been for all other jumps. Spotting is using landmarks to identify and decide on where the door opens and when the pilot cuts the engine so we can jump out. Of course I managed to screw up that part a little, but that's kind of the point...making mistakes and learning. I put us a little too west, but we were able to get back to the landing zone just fine. G is very good about letting me screw up only insofar as I don't endanger anyone, which gives me a lot of opportunities for learning. Which I am doing plenty of.

The layouts are exactly what they sound like they are--flips--and tracking is flying forward very quickly by flattening out your body. It allows you to move laterally in a given direction. I got into the layouts easy, but had trouble stopping the movement and ended up for the first time losing control in freefall. It sounds scary, but it's really not that bad. It's just a matter of responding to the situation, getting back IN control of your body, and staying where you are so you can do what you need to do. What a great lesson for me, both as a skydiver and a person.

As for the tracking, I was a little funky with my arms for the first go at it, but after I took a break and tried again, it was FUN and came much easier. I didn't monitor my altitude perfectly and pulled a little low, but my opening and landing were fine.

After that, G briefed me on how the jump went and we talked about level 7 which frankly scares the bejeezus out of me. It is a solo jump that combines everything I've been learning. I'm kind of glad I know the flow now so I can visualize and build confidence over the course of the week. I've learned that I am adept at responding to situations but that I suck when it comes to being on the power curve, making the decisions. And I need to figure that out for this jump.

I stayed around to watch G fly his wingsuit so I could watch his canopy deploy since I had packed it last weekend. It worked--he had threatened me with my AFF if he had to cutaway, which he didn't, so I get to keep jumping. In fact, he handed it to me to pack it a second time. It was all I could do to finish that pack job, as I was starting to crash, and bad. I perked up with an Anchor Steam and a lap around the hangar, as well as some vaguely dangerous antics like scaling the hangar door and the like. We all stood around until heading out, this time after dark. We (the young generation of jumpers) met up at our “clubhouse”--J's apartment--where we ate pizza and watched The Sharp End. I doubt I'll ever get tired of that movie.

I'm trying to temper my enthusiasm a bit since I'm pretty sure everyone I know is tired of me talking about skydiving. I can't make any promises, far I'm pretty well hooked. Anyone else wanna try it?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

jump, you say? how high? how about 10,500?

There's something about hanging out at the dropzone from before when my coffee even kicks in until the hunger pains that signal dinnertime that makes it hard to return to everything else. There's a rhythm there that is easy to settle into, and an energy that makes it difficult to leave.

I went up early Sunday morning knowing I was going to spend all day, and spend all day I did. We were set with upwards of a dozen tandems, which means that our little Cessna 182 gets a workout. Also the main packer gets a workout, but that's another story. :) Packing tandems will get you strong and VERY good at sleeping bag and tent packing. Heck, packing canopies at all will get you good at those things.

Midmorning I had a lovely talk laying under the non-running plane in the back with one of the instructors. We talked about life and work and jumping and relationships and family, and I only got up once it started to ache to be in the same place for so long. Some hullaballo commenced, mostly headstands and dangerous maneuvers of that sort, chatting a little with the occasional talkative tandem. I like talking to tandems because it wasn't that long ago I was there.

I have an appreciation for the rhythm of the loads, because it seems to fall right into how I prefer my attention be broken up. It takes about 20 minutes to complete a cycle, which factors in the climb up to altitude, the jump & then flying a canopy down to the ground. I'm pretty consistently able to focus on an activity in about 20-minute chunks. Works out nicely, don't you think?

Come about 2 or 3 in the afternoon we were able to figure out how I'd fit my jumps. The tandems were all gone for the day and then it was time for AFF jumpers (of whom there were two--me and one other) and up jumpers to get some altitude. The other student would do his level 4, then I'd do my level 3 and if that went well I could do my level 4.

Level 3 is a stability jump. The idea is by this point you're supposed to be learning to control your body on your own in freefall, and for this level you essentially just have to hold steady without anyone holding onto you. It can go really well or it can be where you get stuck repeating a level. If you pass, you graduate to one instructor instead of two. On all the other levels, you have a myriad of objectives to complete, a series of sequences, but on this jump it's all about preventing turns or bobbles or wiggles. Which is harder than it sounds! A knee dropped by an inch is all it takes to throw off your entire body and send you turning! But bodies are cool things because if you let them do what they're supposed to and stop THINKING so hard, they figure it out. You just DO it. You know, like Nike.

So somehow my body figured out how to skydive in there somewhere and while it was nowhere near a perfect jump, it was a great jump and I learned a LOT about flying. Then it was time for level 4, at which you learn to turn and fly forward to dock (read: connect) with your instructor. My level 4 jump was also a fun load because I got to go up with two of my favorite jumpers! We're kind of the “new generation” at our dz, so it's fun to hang out with them. I took them climbing last week which was a total blast. S is currently the only other girl on the dz, so I like spending time with her. We'll have a couple more come fall, which'll be good too! J was the other jumper on my load, and he took video. I was worried about being distracted, but because of the nature of the dive I didn't even really notice him. And it was nice to have the video to review on the ground later. (No, I didn't keep it. What for?)

On the level 4 I completely screwed up one of the turns but I learned from it and figured it out for the second one. It's really insane what you can learn in 30 seconds of freefall, and how many hours of contemplation it feeds in the days following. I literally woke up this morning and involuntarily my brain switched to skydiving. From the exit to the landing pattern it's all a learning experience in which you can be nowhere else. I can't fit in my brain thoughts of anything BUT the immediate moment while jumping. And I like that.

I got to go off-radio (you wear a 2-way for under canopy until your instructor decides you don't need it I guess) for jump 4, which was a little nervy. But really, I didn't need it. At that point I had shown I could safely--not perfectly--land a parachute and understand what I was doing. I dread the day I have any kind of malfunction and have to troubleshoot, but that's part of it, and I'll take that risk.

After the last jump I watched S pack a student rig and my instructor offered to let me finish packing his wingsuit rig. Um, no pressure right? It's not like he'd like to keep his almost-20-years-without-a-cutaway record. I finished the pack job with HEAVY supervision. I like packing though. I like the idea of having an understanding and control of more variables of the jump.

After the last load of the day we packed up and headed out to eat Mexican food...yum. And for one of the first times in my life I wan't the only goofy one at the table, willing to be silly and loud and imaginative and happy. I have yet to meet a skydiver with a pervasively negative disposition. Yes, people get frustrated at the dz. Bad jumps happen, whatever. But at the end of the day, we jumped. We lived and played and learned.

And I am learning so much about myself...what motivates me, what worries me, what teaches me. I leave the dz at the end of the day WORKED. I wake up the next day WORKED (I swear it, skydiving is great for the thigh/butt/lower back muscles). My poor bank account even gets worked. :) I love it all, though. It's funny, I have a hard time spending time with groups of friends who aren't jumpers after being with jumpers all day. I can't settle. I feel out of place and simultaneously exhausted and revved up.

The funny thing is, I get the feeling that from the outside looking in, the perception of all of this is an amalgamation of people thinking I'm nuts and being inspired, two things I didn't anticipate. For ONCE I have chosen activities that make me unspeakably excited and happy and I have a hard time caring what someone else thinks. Yeah, skydiving sounds all well and good and everyone wants to do the quintessential tandem dive on their “To Do Before I Die” list but if you do it over and over? People think you've got a screw loose. Maybe I have got a screw loose, but that's besides the point. I'm still a baby skydiver anyways. Still just a student. Maybe I'll have more to say when I've got more jumps, but by then you'll all be tired of my rambling about jumping anyways. :)

Suffice it to say, I really love to jump. It scares the bejeezus out of me but it is uniquely wonderful. I can't wait for the next one.

Monday, July 20, 2009

there's no such thing as a perfectly good airplane

Can you find me in the photo?

Couldn't keep myself outta the sky. I decided to head on up to the dropzone for AFF Level 2 on Saturday afternoon. I dragged my ever-so-patient "person" (Grey's Anatomy reference) up with me. I can count on my hand the people I could bring anywhere (because they can blaze their own friendships and be comfortable in any new place without needing me by their side the whole time) and she's one of them.

It already feels like a little family there for me. Hugs, hellos, more hugs...I could get used to that. I had called on my way to the dz, and my instructor had answered, saying they'd figure out a way to fit me in around the multiple tandems scheduled for the afternoon. Helps to be a favorite student. ;)

Now, before I launch into much else, I'll have you know that the temperature, by my measurements, was approximately oh, seventy-eleven-billion-and-a-half. Hot by anyone's standards. So any kind of activity is pretty much miserable. Solution: get up to 10,500. It's a little cooler up there.

This lesson was muuuuuuuuch shorter, and consisted of learning some turns and how to fly forward in freefall. To turn, you look over a shoulder and tilt your upper torso ever so slightly, and then recover the turn. To fly forward, arms go back a little, legs straighten, and then you're like superman! Conceptually, I understood, and after some practice on the ground I was ready for some altitude.

We ended up having to wait a while for space on a load, since our little plane only holds four besides the pilot, and until level 4, I have to fly with two instructors. I think we finally suited up around 3 and let me tell you that putting on that jumpsuit in 100+ degree heat was vaguely unpleasant. Add 40 lbs of student rig, and you not only look like a ninja turtle (I flew in Green Bean, the lucky green jumpsuit) but you feel kinda weighed down.

Greg showed me how to do a gear check, and then let me put on my rig myself. Soon enough, it was go time.

We climbed onto the little Cessna and started the ascent to altitude. It takes about 20 minutes to climb to 10,500, so there's plenty of time to visualize everything, and plenty of time to get nervous. The first time, you don't know exactly what to expect, but the second time you remember. And it's kinda scarier!

Greg made me review everything for him, from the exit to the landing, and we practiced hand signals. At altitude, we climbed out (Dave was on my left...he hadn't been on my Level 1 and he's the dz owner, so I wanted to do well...). Hotel check, prop, up, down, arch thousand two thousand three thousand...

And this time I found the horizon pretty easily, checked my altitude, did a quick practice touch and started my turns. Right turn: textbook. So unexpectedly textbook that I didn't feel like I did anything. Left turn: botched. Tried to think about it and ended up totally screwing it up, the realization of which made me lose my arch a little. No bueno. Checked altitude and had enough time to try flying forward, which was pretty easy. Checked altitude again, and...pull time.

Pulled, turn right, turn left, flare...all was in working order. I found my play area and stayed there, then went in for my landing pattern, which I had a little more trouble with than last time and almost ended up short. I flared (braked) about eight feet too high, but still managed to stand it up. Woo-hoo!!

Sarah came out and helped me gather my canopy, and we went on back to the hangar. Greg and I debriefed, and he actually made me feel a little better about the whole dive. I definitely fixated on that left turn waaaaaay too much, so it was good to see it all a little more objectively. And I passed, which means I get to move on to level 3.

Skydiving is teaching me to control anxiousness in light of ambition, something I definitely could use practice in. I want to fly by myself. I want to wingsuit someday. I want to fly more and more and more. But I have to be patient, and I have to pace myself and focus on where I am right now. This minute, this place, this day.

Friday, July 17, 2009

explanation of why I have been so tired this week...

Part 1: Learning to Fly Solo

My first day of jump school (which refers to the many hours you have to spend with an instructor learning the basics of skydiving) was many hours long. I woke up bright and early to make my 8 a.m. appointment at the dropzone—which is 40+ minutes away—and was still a little late. No harm done, as my instructor pulled up ten minutes after I did.
We got going right away, and Greg (the instructor) wasted no time.

“Why do you want to skydive?” he asked me straightaway. My answer essentially came down to the fact that up there in the sky, I can only be there and nowhere else, and that is a realization I LOVE. I live a noisy, busy life, and so the places where I can pare that down to only the moment (climbing, jumping) are precious to me.

We then watched a short video, talked some more, and then stepped outside to start learning exit procedures (i.e. “what you do when it’s time to get out of the darn plane”). Over and over we practiced, adding more and more steps until it was all I could do to remember my own name. I walked around all day throwing my arms up and around like a crazy person, mouthing my sequence to make it second nature. I must have looked a sight.

All day was one-on-one, so I had plenty of opportunity to work through my fears and doubts and mistakes before hitting the skies. The hardest part for me was learning to keep going when I messed up. My perfectionist tendencies, which I’d like to think are pretty mild, came out in full force as I’d stop and hesitate upon realizing a mistake. This was something I had to get over—and fast. There is no room for hesitating up there, just identifying mistakes and fixing them. What a great lesson for me…

I was given about twenty minutes to myself pre-jump to practice/eat/settle my nerves. I did a couple sun salutations and a few more mock exits, and then it was time. Come jump time, we suited up (my jumpsuit was a lovely pink…that tidbit was for you, @unredacted & @cupcakemafia) and climbed in the little bitty plane.

I was NERVOUS. This was it. I kept meeting Greg’s eyes looking for something that would help settle me down, and he offered quite a bit of confidence in me, which helped. My other jumpmaster, Aldo, who I’d exchanged quips with throughout the day expressed confidence as well. We practiced some hand signals, took some deep breaths, and soon enough we were at altitude.

The door opened and we climbed out.

Check in. Check out. Prop. Up, down (let go)…arch thousand, two thousand, three thousand…and we’re flying. Flanked on either side, I easily found a good body position and started practice touches (reaching behind me to touch my parachute’s pull cord), checking altitudes until 5500. The wave off (a process by which I announce my intentions to pull my cord and open my canopy) and…it all slows down. Suddenly I’m by myself, surrounded by silent air five thousand feet up with just radio contact to keep me company.

I followed the directions given me from the ground, turning and stopping when asked, and pretty easily located my “play area” and landing zone. I played (“hey Katie, pull right—HARD…okay okay, stop the spin…”—which later I would find out solidified my already developing reputation for being a “try anything”-type, given that I felt comfortable with it) and the landing went allllllmost perfectly. I turned at all the prescribed altitudes, then flared at exactly the right height…touched down…surfed the field for a second…and ate it. Darn if I couldn’t walk it out and stand up that blasted landing.

I could tell it went well as soon as Greg came out to help me gather my canopy. He met me with a hug and congratulations and perhaps the greatest compliment of the day (from a self-described “hard-ass”): that was the best first jump I’ve seen in at least two years. I was shaking with all the excitement and smiling from one ear on up to the other. We walked on in to the hangar and debriefed. We talked about what went well and what went okay and decided my strength was in freefall, where I’d experienced hardly a wobble, and that my canopy work wasn’t too bad either. There were definitely a few improvements to be made, though. (Next jump!)

I was instructed first to leave my jumpsuit on the couch, but then Greg changed his mind, saying “nevermind that! you’re one of us…go hang it up!”. I was flattered, and probably retorted back with some snarky comment as I walked over to the closet. I sat down with Aldo and had a good long talk about why he jumps and why I want to. What a wonderful teddy-bear/kind-uncle of a person. Just good good good feelings from/about him.

I spent a little more time socializing, then headed home to watch the kids for the rest of the evening—and let me tell you, I was so tired come then I could barely stand up. I can’t wait to go back for level two…maybe this weekend or next?

Part 2: Climbing in Yosemite (or On Becoming a Trad Girl)

Without missing a beat (I did, however, miss more sleep than I should have) I got up well before the sun on Sunday for the drive up to Yosemite to meet @RikRay for my first day of trad climbing (wiki: I had been up far too late the night before making a list of what to pack for the two-day climbing trip, laying it all out on a towel in the hallway, and finishing laundry. Thusly, I started the day tired. However, as any climbing day (or rather, ANY day, for that matter) requires coffee or its derivatives to begin properly, I felt much better after caffeinating and fueling. I filled my tank, bought some groceries, and set off for the Valley.
The drive up was pleasant, and I made sure to call my parents just to let them know I was going to be gallivanting around a few hundred feet up off the beaten path and that I’d check in in a couple of days.

Upon arriving in the Valley, I promptly got lost (which only happened because I felt comfortable enough with the place to not look up directions for our meetup point) and was 40 minutes late meeting @RikRay. Thankfully, he turned out to be exceptionally forgiving and unconcerned. Pretty much immediately we set off for the base of Manure Pile Buttress to head up After Six, a six-pitch trad climb and my first time climbing either multiple pitches OR trad. I asked the usual multitude of questions and we roped up. I followed, cleaning (or “pulling out”) gear (or “those funny-looking things climbers stick in the cracks in the rock”), managing to drop one and only one piece, and on the first pitch.

The whole climb took only a couple hours, even as slow as we were moving, stopping to talk about all aspects of the climb. I had a lot of time to myself while climbing (and well-within my ability as far as difficulty) to think about my fear of exposure and heights and deal with that. I think that primarily gym climbers have to deal moreso with the transition to trusting gear and rope—something you learn through experience if you start and spend a lot of time outside. Indoors, I climb a pretty consistent 5.10, but outdoors I got all kinds of sketched out on even 5.7 and I didn’t even lead! (Didn’t let on too much, did I @RikRay?)

We scrambled the descent talking about our fellow twitter friends and their blogs, and decided upon reaching the base that we’d take a break as it would soon be the hottest part of the day. We made our way over to the El Cap meadow and bridge, where we met Holly. Holly had taken a nasty beating on the second pitch of her latest El Cap experience and two-and-a-half weeks later still looked like hell. But smiling and willing to talk about El Cap with any and every person who stopped to look through the telescopes at the climbers on the wall.

@RikRay and I then headed for Jamcrack, where he led one last pitch and I followed. Had we had more daylight, I would have likely tried to lead it, but as it was we were able to set up a toprope on Bummer and Bum Fingers, both 5.10s! I fell a couple times but fought my way up the cuticle chewing finger crack, feeling pretty good about the day.

After that, we drove back over to my car out at the bridge, bid our farewells and I headed off for Tuolumne to meet up with @rockgrrl and her posse of climber friends. The drive (I had never been to Tuolumne!) was pleasantly gorgeous and I managed not to get lost this time, arriving just after sunset to welcoming hugs and a warm fire, plus some dinner on top of that! I got situated and soon another friend pulled up. The four of us (me, @rockgrrl, Jamie, & Peter) set up a night slackline which none of us did well on and stayed up late talking about our climbing histories and the next day’s plans.

I slept moderately well, getting particularly cold just before sunrise. I managed to doze until just after 7, when @rockgrrl woke up and we talked before extracting ourselves from the little two-person tent she graciously shared with me. Oatmeal ensued, complete with bananas and, in my case, coffee. Then it was time to assemble ourselves to head to Medlicott Dome.

We found our way to the dome, after a 45-minute detour at the wrong trailhead before we realized the approach was FAR easier than the guidebook had noted. True to the book, the actual approach was terrible and tested my capacity both to withstand incessant mosquitos and to fend off an asthma attack. I stopped often, making sure I could get a full breath before continuing. The last thing I needed, as the new climber on this trip, was to have an issue with breathing and worry everyone and cause a hullaballo.

FINALLY we arrived at the base of D’oh, where we assembled the necessary gear. The boys took more, since they were headed up three pitches and us girls would only do one and then toprope some nearby climbs. The boys set off and @rockgrrl and I waited, talking more about twitter and climbing and really anything that struck our fancies. (Not that we’re fancy, at least I know I’M not fancy…) I followed her up the pitch, managing to leave a little skin behind in the sharp crystal-y crack. We set up our toprope and by that time the boys were on their rappel. I was absolutely wiped from the weekend’s festivities, but Jamie and @rockgrrl managed to convince me to try the 10a toprope, which proved to be easier than I thought it would. I cut my teeth, so to speak, on glassy, sweaty slabs near my town and so the features there seemed juggy by comparison.

Jamie did the topropes, and then we broke down the setup and headed home, happily tired and stinky and hungry. I ate a quick dinner, packed up, and reluctantly said my goodbyes. By the time I got on the road, it was just after 7. The drive home was decidedly boring and took entirely longer than I expected on account of the fact that they decided to do late-night road construction on my route home. I arrived home dirty, scraped up, slightly sunburned, mosquito-bitten, and ready for bed. I took a mildly painful shower and crawled happily into my queen size pillowtop.
I slept well Monday night, and had to wake up way too early for my taste, but as usual, with a little bit of coffee I was able to make do. And here I am, still a little beat up but restlessly anticipating my next adventure…

Thanks to all parties involved for the great weekend and for being such wonderful people...I can't wait to meet more climber tweeps and convert some of you to jumping. :)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

from a grown-up sized kid's perspective

About three weeks ago, I moved in with a family that has four kids (ages 7, 5, 3 & 19 months). I love it. I get to help out with the kids and the house, and in exchange get to live out in the blissfully streetlight-less country, replete with beetles and roly-polys and vagrant Chihuahuas (don’t ask, I don’t really know).

I’ve been thinking about my favorite things about living with kids, and thought it’d be good to hash them out via the blogosphere if for no other reason than to organize them as they careen about in my already full brain.

So here goes.

I love the routine. They get up early, they crash early. I get to fit in to that routine to some degree, and my body loves it. Best sleep schedule I’ve had in years. There’s a level of expectation and schedule that kids’ bodies and minds demand and they function better at that level. They require it. Reminds me I sort of do too.

I love learning the fine fine art of distraction. There is nothing more effective in defusing an argument than distracting one or both parties. What an illustration of how we choose what most occupies us at that moment. What is most attractive. I’m sure we never really grow out of that.

I get to PLAY. Monday we rode bikes in the backyard, which sounds harmless but really resembles more of “we mountain biked through the field that extends past the first fence and way out to the second”. I am constantly impressed and interested in what these kids accomplish. Little goals and little benchmarks become big deals, because they are and they should be. Things like the first jump off the diving board, when you’re so scared because you’re in the deep end and your floaties might not save you even though Mom keeps telling you you’ll be fine. Reminds me not to forget to get excited about the little things, and to try things that seem hard or scary.

I like bugs. I like hunting for roly-polys and I like catching mosquito eaters and I like when I can’t get all the dirt from under my fingernails. I like inventing excuses to get the kids outside mostly so I can be outside too. They get along better out there, and everything’s always new. There’s always something to find and explore and examine.

I have yet to come up with any reasons not to love where I am, because even in the moments where things are noisy or busy or messy or (gasp!) stinky, it’s easy to feel blessed and alive.

Monday, June 8, 2009

no disclaimers here

This will be mostly for my own good, which blogging often is. You know, in the self-actualizing way that writing something down kind of forces you to verbalize and acknowledge. This is mostly brought on by a recent gchat conversation with a dear friend in which we discussed the issue of feeling like kids running around in a grown up's world. She and I have known each other for a little over five years now, which is likely the longest I've known anyone that I didn't know before college. (Do the math...yes, I graduated in 2004.) Therefore, she is a kind of sounding board for my identity because we've watched one another ricochet all over the place trying to find where we fit. And I'd venture to say that we're on our way moreso than we've ever been, but we're not there yet. At least I'm not.

She and I will both be 23 in the next few months. I know, I know, we're just babies. Young adults in every sense of the phrase. We're fresh-faced (or something), idealistic, and uncertain. I'm still close enough to 18 that I can easily recall believing I'd sort of have it figured out by now. (Clearly, that's not the case.)

But I'm not 18 anymore. I've got a couple years under my belt. I don't claim to get it yet. I'm just saying that I'm starting to, you know? I find that I get most frustrated with myself when I look around and think that just because I'm a few years younger than most of the people I go to school with or even keep frequent contact with that I am separate from them. I'm not, and anytime I think I am, I have to stop and remember that people will respond to me. 22 (or 23 for that matter) is whatever I want it to be. If I want to segregate myself and feel young and silly, then people respect that. They really don't care. It's kind of up to me.

Most days I'm still reeling on the highs of newly discovered passions and then enduring their equal and opposite lows. I'm still trying to shed my tendency to make other people happy, because I'm realizing that never really worked for me anyways. It's still difficult, because that part of me runs really deep.

I'm impulsive and impetuous and awkward. I'm persistent and honest and concerned and curious. I've always been those things, and I probably always will be. It's learning to own them that makes the difference. And if you don't like me, I can be okay with that. :) I think.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

we are lipstick and cleats/we are not going home/we are playing for keeps

I don't really have a lot of organized words to share's all a-jumble. So here's a few lines from various sources that have been infiltrating my psyche.

I felt I wanted to cry like a child for the very joy of being alive. And then I became aware of the silence...a total, incredible silence after the din of the aircraft, a great blue and white silence that would never end. The earth below, bright yellow in the sunshine and apparently motionless, did not seem to be rushing up towards me. I was hanging there in the sky, happy and peaceful in an element whose extraordinary qualities I began to savour: fluid, impalpable, with no obstacles. I realized for the first time how delightful it would be to live there in a breathtaking liberty. It was my element.
-Leo Valentin, Bird Man

It all comes down to this
You take your best shot, might miss
You take it anyway
You're gonna make your move today
Got the will, you'll find the way
To change the world someday
Grab this moment before it's gone
Today's your day

It's on

And the view will never change
Unless you decide to change it
Don't feel like it today
Just show up anyways
And though life will take you down
It only matters if you let it
Get up, go through, press on
Today's your day

It's on

And though you wanna quit
Don't think you can get through it
You've come too far to walk away
It's not gonna be today
And no matter how you feel
It's what you do that matters
This is your moment to be strong
Today's your day

It's on

-Superchic[k], It's On

Saturday, May 30, 2009

one plunge step at a time

I think fear & limits exist on a spectrum. The interaction of the two is what colors the decisions we make, from where to live to what to do on days off. It influences our interactions and determines how we approach both new and old relationships. And this interplay of sorts is dynamic, forever sensitive to a thousand other factors.

I've found myself more often recently explaining certain fears I have and how I deal with them, perhaps because they are at the front of my consciousness on a regular basis and discussing how I think about them helps me to articulate for myself the process of confronting them.

I'm scared of many things...some of the more tangible include fire, falling, being rejected, and failure. These fears I have, they're diffuse. They're "what ifs", and I don't like "what ifs". So I choose to set them aside until I have to confront them in a given situation, and then I parse them. I break them down, identify what about that fear in that situation makes me uncomfortable.

And I have limits. Interpersonal limits, limits of ability, self-imposed limits, situational constraints. What's funny is how much I realize that I choose these limits. I choose how much to share, how comfortable to be with someone. I choose how hard I work to develop a new skill, I choose how to respond. I choose where I live and where I work and what I do for fun. And because of that, I choose to be content. I have no right to project my frustrations with a given situation onto anyone else because when it really comes down to it, I have chosen to be where I am.

What a freeing concept.

And it's all still a process for me, and it will be--so far as I can tell--for a long long time. I'm okay with that. I choose that. I own it.

What do you think?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

the top of the world

Sometimes I have a hard time convincing people I'm afraid of heights. This is especially true considering the events that transpired over the past few days.

After a mere three hours of sleep, I managed to wake up before my alarm on Saturday, something that doesn't happen um...ever. And the fact that it was set for 6:30? Virtually miraculous. Anyways, so there I am, wide awake and ready for the two and a half hour drive up to the Lodi dropzone. I sipped coffee with cream and listened to the Dirtbag Diaries all the way up the state, periodically getting goosebumps when a particular story or sentiment resonated unexpectedly. Why did I not listen to the Dirtbag Diaries before recently?

I stopped at Grandma's to make a lunch, a visit that stretched from a quick hello into a two-hour heart-to-heart. Worth every second.

After I left there, I continued up the state and arrived in Lodi about noon. Now, I had decided, despite offers from friends who would accompany me, that this would be a solo adventure. I've come to prefer solo adventures. If I know myself at all, I know that I've spent a good part of my life being too sensitive to what other people think...of me, of what I say, of what we experience together...and that this was something I wanted to do by myself. That said, I will confess I was ever so slightly bewildered upon my arrival at the dz. It was busy and buzzing with activity and I didn't know a soul. Quickly I filled out my release and paid. Utilizing my hypersocial tendencies, I asked a friendly-looking woman where to find Brook & company, and she directed me towards them. Within ten minutes, I had six new friends, including Ryder, only the sweetest dog in the world.

I didn't have to wait too long. Once I had met everyone and gotten settled, it was pretty much time to meet my tandem master and suit up for my jump. Shortly thereafter, we took to the sky for an agonizingly long ascent. En route to our altitude, I met the jumpers behind me and to my left, one of whom commented on my lack of shaky hands. I am rather proficient at psyching myself "in" when I can anticipate a situation and choose how I want to respond to it. This was no different.

At altitude, the other tandem pair jumped, followed closely by CS and me. Even though it all happened very fast at this point, I have no trouble recalling any instant of it. It's completely intact, from the exit to the landing. Many times during the freefall, I had to remind myself to "look at the camera" (I got pictures since the few friends I told about the jump asked to see them, plus it'd be nice to have some record) instead of just soaking in the bliss of it all. That feeling is the best thing I can possibly imagine. That falling is so strangely peaceful. It has a direction and a purpose and it feels solitary. You are nowhere else in that moment. Enough with the philosophical mumbojumbo. :) When the canopy opened, CS and I chatted and joked and generally enjoyed ourselves, and the landing was easy.

After landing, I reassumed my position as Aunt Katie to Ryder the Fearless Dropzone Puppy. His mom and dad jumped all day, intermittently checking in for a hello or a snack. We spent the rest of the day chatting with countless other jumpers, going on walks, eating lunch...I met so many fun people and fell in love with the dynamics of the dropzone. The throngs of people as the planes were loading...then twenty minutes later they all drop out of the sky in a rush of color. Had I not come by myself, I wouldn't have had the opportunity to simply receive and process the interactions and activity the way I did.

After dinner with Liv, Matt, Brook, & Jimmy, I headed to my parents' to say hello and spend the night on my way home.

The next morning I woke up early and headed home, reeling from the effects of withdrawal from a day of activity. I've found this happens to me a lot whenever I really enjoy myself. I go from intensely content, positive feelings towards restless, unsettled moodiness. This was me all afternoon. I got to bed vaguely early Sunday night in preparation for Monday, tired but hopeful and excited.

Monday morning I woke up at the prescribed 3 a.m. for a 3:30 meetup at the local REI with all my climbing buddies for our Half Dome adventure. We hit the road for the two hour drive, me with coffee in hand. The sun started to twilight as we hit the park entrance. With all the blithe ignorance of not-yet-inducted and as-yet-forgotten-just-how-damn-hard-it-is half dome hikers, we took a few photos and set off happily. The JMT was our trail of choice, favored for its lack of heinous stone steps and considerably less cold and wet conditions, considering the hour.

For the next several hours, we hauled our progressively dirtier and sweatier and tireder selves up the trail, stopping for water and pictures and snacks when necessary and generally having as good a time as is possible when 11 friends are simultaneously pushing their physical limits. After what seemed like a lifetime, we crested the quarter dome and waited for all in our party to catch up. A few group photos later we joined the surprisingly small crowd at the cables for the last (and scariest!) push. (I still get the heebiejeebies when I picture the cables, and I've done them twice!)

Finally at the top, I cavorted about, posing for a photo here and there but mostly keeping my promise to myself: this time I was gonna do it better. I wasn't going to be sketched out the way I was the first time, and I was going to explore and enjoy myself instead of shying away from anything that resembled the edge.

An hour later we realized we were chasing daylight and needed to start for the trailhead immediately or risk an epic of sorts. With 11 hikers, this is anything but easy.

Exhausted and anxious, we headed down the trail in pockets, stopping only when necessary but otherwise plugging along steadily, trying not to think about our aching knees and feet. Once back at the cars, we assessed ourselves, assembled each carload, and set off for home. I had to pull over and switch drivers an hour later, something I hate doing but realize sometimes is necessary.

Finally, after a short shower, I crawled into bed. This morning when my alarm went off it was all I could do to even get out of bed. My body demanded that I sleep longer, and was a little sore to boot, but work won. On the way to work, I was still on an upswing, but by midday I was reeling with restlessness. I think I've equalized a little, but there's definitely more processing to do that has to wait until I can get to the gym for a little climbing therapy (an idea my body currently is protesting).

Until then, blue skies and happy trails!