Monday, June 24, 2013

The Necessity of Wild Places

I sat on a porch just outside Yosemite the other morning, hands curled around a cup of coffee and barefoot toes tapping to this song. The night prior, I had slept in a meadow, watching the Milky Way arch it's back across the sky and listened to the coyotes sing their song in such a loud and somber note, I thought I was dreaming it.

And yesterday night, I sat atop a ridge looking across the ocean, with a wind that blew a damp cold into my bones that only sea air knows how to do. I watched the ocean heave in swells and I thought a lot about the necessity of wildness.

"Just now I can hardly conceive of any bodily condition dependent on food and breath any more than the ground or sky." (John Muir, My First Summer in the Sierra)

In between these places, I've been shuffled down overcrowded highways to cities and this culture shock has been hard on my system. And I've thought about this quote from Muir as I've looked around at those whose foreheads lean on their hands in traffic, and those who are constantly staring at their phones while walking, and those who have a general tiredness about them from the rushing and waiting. So many are suffering from nature deficit and don't even know. I wished for all of them that they could smell the coastal sage in the evenings and wrap their arms around a redwood, and listen to the Merced before they slept.

After 12,000 miles on the road at 8 weeks of travel, I can say that I've come to realize how much I need wildness in my life; to see the moon sit on the horizon and the stars grow brighter and to listen to how the wind in the pines sounds like the ocean. I'm so lucky that I get to experience this all the time and I've been able to carve a life for myself that allows me to be in those places so frequently. I feed off of it, and get so depleted from the city life.

And in the past day, when I've sat in the cab and stared out the window at the skyscraper scene that has replaced my mountain scene, I've thought that there is a wildness about the city that I don't completely understand. It works for some but oh, I miss the internal West.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

El Capitan and the Fear

This morning I woke up staring at thousands of feet of rock, towering above my head. Above me is the Salathe, a route that my Uncle had made the first free ascent on, almost exactly 25 years prior. I fell asleep underneath it last night, after a frustrating jug haul up the fixed lines, handing over my pride and halfway jugging in the dark due to my slowness, to reach the bottom of the Heart on El Capitan in Yosemite Valley.

I watched the sunrise turn the cliffs pink and the shadow of El Cap project onto the trees below, the big giant, waking up from sleep. The shadow worked clockwise as we stretched our tired muscles and I thought a lot about fear that has prevented me from being up on a wall sooner. In fact, I had dreams of falling for weeks before I got here.

Fear is a funny thing, and it can decide how you live your life. I feel like mine has been holding me tightly to it's hip and I've let it sit, thinking that there's nothing I could do about it.

Before we started hiking to the base, I was so full of nervous energy, I could have run for miles. And though that energy was mostly spent in my desperate attempt to get my rhythm set jugging, most of the fear had converted into amazement that I was actually on my way up, that the fear wasn't quite as paralyzing as I had thought.

And though it's no big stride, it's progress and it was a life changing experience for me.

The moon, in it's crescent, was light enough to see and it cast moon flares through my lens. I can't tell you how very, very alive I felt up there, looking down on the 200 ft trees, and drinking coffee high above the Valley floor. I can tell you that today I have lived life to the fullest and I'm not the same person I was yesterday.

I wish you could see the beauty that I've been witnessing and the exponential growth that I've felt. I try my best to capture it all, but there are certain things that shouldn't be bridled, just experienced. And the sum of all my experiences here, are that exactly. 

I hope I never stop feeling life so fully as I do right now and I'm incredibly grateful for the people I had with me on this step.