There is a feeling I only get in the Spring, when I open the windows for the first time. Two layers of sounds come into the room. The first is of people around me: cars driving by, trains, people chatting on porches. The second is hidden in the background, and it is the one I’ve been waiting for. Wind, leaves rustling, the song of waking birds. These sounds put me back in nature. Not the miniature natures of front yards or city parks, the kind that is miles from concrete.
I imagine a spring weekend far away. Low, before-noon light, the feeling of sweat and cobwebs in your face. The fog of morning has been shaken off of your brain by a rousing approach, and you are finally there, looking up at the corner. It looks a lot different than it did in the pictures. It always does. The journey you will take is never predictable, but you can pick out the easy or hard sections. Down low looks casual with enough gear, but that middle section, does it pinch off completely or could you fiddle in a wire? Does the top take a #2 or #5?
Your partner and you are quiet. Little needs to be said. You find a good sitting-rock and give a satisfied smile and sigh. The pack opens and the clinking of gear begins. Shuffle shuffle, ziiiiiip. Click, click. Click, click. Click, click. Click, click. The weight on your hips grows as your heart rate starts to climb. The hard sections are looking harder and the angle steeper. Then, you look at your partner and the flaked rope and exchange perfect smiles. This is why we’re here, this is what we came for. The nervousness disappears, you know what you have to do.
Ground is always covered faster than you thought it would. Step, lean, jug. Click, click, you’re safe. Jam, high-step, crimp. Click, click, you’re safe. Next thing you know, you’re standing under the crux and it doesn’t look so bad. It goes, your weight on your fingertips. Gear is found, and you’re clipping chains.
Your body feels different now. The cuts and bruises are obvious, but it’s the inside that matters. A piece of history has been reclaimed. A pure adventure was had, and you navigated successfully. You were scared, tired, unsure, but overcame. For a brief moment, you shake hands with cavemen, colonial explorers, or Chouinard and Messner.
These days always end with a trek back to a road, where you unlock the door to your other life with a key you have better kept safe. You drive to a restaurant and perhaps sleep on the ground for another night or two, and then the vacation is over.
But it’s different when you get back. You fought for your weekend and earned your feelings of joy. They were not from alcohol-fueled debauchery where you pay with your wallet and liver for your good times. You wrestled them from nature. From massive towers of rock, pushing you to fall, pushing you to die. The positions you found yourself in were not normal, but who wants normal? Where in the history books do they highlight the normal? What do you learn from normal? How will you grow?
I long for these days when my windows are open. Their calming effect is distracting. The peacefulness they bring keep me sane behind my desk, where wrestling with emails is satisfying, but fleetingly so. When I’m old, my external self may be built on meetings and salaries, and I will be grateful for stability and payable experience. But, my internal self is malleable from these exploratory weekends, where I learn strength unknown on a work day. My muscles and mettle will stand level with my information-choked brain, and I will be happy.