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.