Even though I’ve been out climbing three times since arriving here so far, nothing has been at the level that I would like. Having to rely on public transport, and the wide geographical distribution of the climbing community hasn’t helped. The three times I have been out have been in a familiar role of introducing another to the sport. This time around this other has been John, our eleven year old son
Last weekend, I found someone to guide us on a crag about thirty minutes away where John completed his first real climb. Then we climbed an easy, and short, three pitches up some nice slabby gneiss from which we walked back down on the back side of the hill.
Our guide, Peter, was an older man who had climbed this part of the world for years. As we climbed up the hill to the rockface, Peter seemed out of breath. I asked him if he was OK and he told me he had a pacemaker installed and he could no longer climb as he used to. As it turned out, he really couldn’t climb very much at all. He did manage the easy climbs we took but had to stop many times to do so. He was that exhausted after the three hours we were at the rock that I had to carry all of my and his gear back down to the car.
Peter belayed me as I led, and he was very patient and supportive of John and helped him immensely to conquer his fear, but Peter won’t be guiding us again. He can’t risk his life. This was his choice.
This weekend, consequently, I had planned to teach John how to rappel. If we are to go out together, then we have to set a rope up from the top, rappel down, and then John can climb while I belay. He is too light and way too inexperienced to belay me, so this is the best we can do at this time.
Yesterday evening, we packed our gear and some food and went to bed contentedly, in anticipation of the next day.
~ Thunder ~
The sound of thunder is different in the mountains to what I have known before. There is a strange lulling fullness to it as it shifts through the valleys and reverberates off the slopes. Unlike that which I have experienced elsewhere, the thunder here is not a cry of anger, not a warning to take cover, to separate and to observe nature’s unspoken words from a shroud of safety. It is a beckoning to be a part of life as it is. Now.
It was this fullness that I woke to well before dawn, one that drew me out of the comfort of sleep and into the outside world.
There, I stood, all senses alive, for quite some time, immersed in the experience that was.
And this is in the night.— Most glorious night! Thou wert not sent for slumber! let me be A sharer in thy fierce and far delight,— A portion of the tempest and of thee! How the lit lake shines,— a phosphoric sea! And the big rain comes dancing to the earth! And now again, 'tis black,— and now, the glee Of the loud hills shakes with its mountain mirth, As if they did rejoice o'er a young earthquake's birth. Lord Byron "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage"
I fondly remember, as I write this, of a time when I spoke with a friend of how we were a part of worlds far removed from where we sat. Of how the wind carried with it unknown fragments of the universe which we breathed in and which became a part of us. This was where, alone, I found myself again in the early hours, entwined with the elements that existed.
I have recently become aware of a word, “interbeing”, that labels the interconnectedness of all around us. I have felt this, many times, but have never been able to encapsulate it in a word, as I can now. Even in the quietest moments this notion of being a part of something whole carries depth, however it is in the aliveness of awe where it is at its most powerful.
I was awed, deeply moved by what was around me, by what I was, and have been a part of. In this state I was carried into a timeless place, a beautiful suspended embrace with the present and the past that led to that of now. With that I took myself back to bed and to sleep.
It is now late morning and the mountains are even more alive. Their presence, their might, is clear. The trees that stood still, silhouetted by the electric flashes of the night a few hours ago, are bending to the wind that has arisen and sheets of rain are falling from the dense blanket shifting clouds above. There will be no climbing today.
It is a day to stay indoors, in the comfort and security of the warmth and security of four walls. This is what I am led to believe. Fortunately, or unfortunately as some might say, I have learned not to blindly heed such calls of withdrawal. As soon as I finish this piece, I will don my wet weather gear and dare to venture out into the chestnut forest nearby to find what exists.
The mountains are a place to be regarded with respect and care and a place to be a part of. This is how we find the beauty, the wonder that exists. I hope John chooses to join me.