I only knew the days were magic. And I valued them far more than money. I couldn’t think of anything else to do with them other than relive them as best as I could. So I would come home, and take myself through the day again in my imagination. It was very important to be completely honest. If my report diverged in the smallest way from the thoughts I experienced in those moments then I knew I’d kill the ability to really remember.
I’m so glad I did this. It shaped my adult life. By honoring this small thing so much, this ability to retell an event, I’ve kept the things other people think are important at bay. I followed a private dream long enough to escape the dreams that press on us from the outside. And now that I’m older, I see the value in being so out of step.
I remember once feeling quite hurt by the mountains. They brought me to tears of frustration and fear. Record it. Don’t lose this lesson.
I’ve been brought to tears of joy, too. Remember it.
Now I’m older. I see that with these stories I was writing songs to sing myself to sleep until the next time I could be out there. Gradually, I became aware that there needed to be room for others to come into their Unknown. Extensive drawings on photographs that said “difficult crack,” and “don’t go up this gully!” began to get on my nerves.
I’m stronger now, so I don’t need to record every step. I’m stronger because I’ve surrendered the need to leave bread crumbs. The way back in is always further. And there are no guarantees.
I was sleeping in too much of life. Sleeping until the next trip to the mountains, when I would “wake up.” It served me well, I think rather sadly.
Everything changes. The moment you’ve attained “it,” it’s over. And so it was with mountain trips. I became tired, and easily annoyed. It seemed like too much work to get over there, or all the way up to the glacier. I had many other things to do. I gradually realized that “having done” a particular climb motivated me now more than “the doing.”
This scared me, and so I tried harder. But this isn’t a thing where trying works. And it put my relationship with the mountains in danger. I wanted to always be in a position of love, honor, and fealty to the greatness that they shone through me.
I decided I should leave. Or rather, I should hike. I should simply walk among them rather than stand atop them. I was ready to never step on another summit until I could stand there fully present in the moment, desiring nothing…only grateful with every beat of my heart.
This was a good start. I loved walking for days alone. I conquered boredom by surrenduring the need to get anywhere. I simply put one foot after the other. In this way I found the simple joy again that animated me for years. I will never leave this place again. My ambitions, such as they are, flow easily when facts on the ground line up that way, and they disperse and reform with the wind.
I would frustrate my previous self as unreliable and erratic. It’s funny to discover that the way to release ambition is to have great ambition. I can laugh at the whole thing.
I see now that I regimented my own humanity to make myself more suited for these climbs. And in doing this to myself, I requested others to fit through ever narrower pipes to reach me. As I woke up to this fact, the world appeared lonely and somewhat empty. This was my own doing.
I needed to live daily life in a different way. I needed to ask more of it and give more to it. I had to play it like I played the mountain life. It was clear I had no choice but to do this. Because there is always development. You cannot live the same epoch twice. You may as well be a ghost if you do that.
I was talking with someone the other day, something about heros of the mountains who do incredible things and return. They were saying that these people are simply so strong and so brave, and gosh, that’s why they deserve accolades.
But I think, often, they are not so much stronger, they just made different choices about risk. I explained some of choices often made to do some large feat in the mountains. Often they involve soloing…a lot of soloing, even if they are with a partner. They train themselves to go without protection for hours in dangerous terrain. You can do that too, you know…
Often, to reach the next stage you have to be in the air and will never return to the previous place. I’m happy to call those people examples, if not heros. Because we’ll all have to do that to reach the next real version of ourselves.
The mountains are inside you. Close your eyes and feel the dark.
The unfeeling gaze of them on you.
Start from there and don’t look back.