Happy Midsummer Night’s Dream! 7/29/2006
I’m sitting here with ice on various parts of my lower anatomy. I did my long run today and am trying to soothe my aching limbs. It’s been a tough week. One of the hardest since I began this incarnation as “Totally Adventurous.” I surmise that some of the difficulty may have stemmed from a “less than restful” rest week the week before and not much sleep for the first half of this week. I fought fatigue and training malaise the entire week and had to drag myself through runs and workouts. I also had some severe knee pain show up on two training hikes with my big pack…so all of this is telling me that it’s time to scale back a bit. I suspect I’ll give my joints a break and swim this upcoming week instead of run.
Fatigue is an interesting state. It really drains motivation and makes everything seem like work. As I got more rest these past few days, I could see the impact of the fatigue on my mental state. It’s good practice to “work through fatigue” because that skill is required on big mountains. You have to be able to dig deep and push up and on even when your body or mind wants to quit. I often find that my mind wants to quit long before my body. Except maybe this week–when both have threatened to go on strike–for higher pay and longer vacation time. On reflection, I realized that I’ve been training hard for six months and I remembered at the six-month mark in my preparations for Denali, I also hit a training wall where motivation dived like a submarine.
I’ve often spoken of needing to have both the view and the footsteps to get there. The view is the ultimate goal–it’s what I’m aiming for and the footsteps are the means by which I get there-training, fundraising, meditation…what I found in the dark times of the past week that when the view gets obscured by clouds of doubt or fatigue, then it both twice as difficult and twice as important to maintain the footsteps. The footsteps reinforce the view and the view supports the footsteps–they are intricately linked and inseparable for me. I can’t have one without the other.
With my Buddhist mentor, I’m studying the six paramitas or the six perfections. The practice of these provide direction and intention on skillful ways to be in the world. We generally study one paramita a week. This week’s paramita was exertion–a synchronous event given I was feeling challenged to exert myself at all. Normally exertion is such a joy for me–but this week exertion was a chore on many levels. In this paramita, the opposite of exertion is laziness. The “second form” of laziness, which is considered to be “losing heart”, struck me. In this case, it refers to losing heart for the dharma or the teachings of the Buddha. For me, this week this form of laziness also caused me to look at how fatigue and doubt cause me to lose heart or at least have my heart temporarily occluded from view. As I write this, I see that the view mentioned above is also integral to having heart. I must have heart to go after the view but must also have the view to maintain heart.
All of this is a long way of saying I was feeling quite discouraged this week by the lack of fruition in our fundraising efforts. Along with training for six months, the fundraising effort has been ongoing as well. On good days, I see the fundraising efforts as preparing the ground for planting, tilling the soil, folding in compost, planting seeds, watering and weeding with hopes of a bountiful harvest. On the harder days, I wonder if this garden and its metaphor will be hit by drought and the seeds will fail to germinate.
So over the next while, I’ll remind myself to be generous (the first paramita), be patient (the second paramita), be disciplined (the third paramita), and continue to exert (the fourth paramita) and see what happens. Two other Buddhist Lojong slogans come to mind as well as a guide for times like last week: “Abandon all hope of fruition” and “Whichever of the two occurs, be patient.” These slogans tell me to give up the attachment that the fundraising will bear fruit and to see that whether or not I get to climb Everest, the world will go on. Both are high stakes practice indeed! I’m still sorting through how to have dreams but not be attached to them…:-)
Along with continued Buddhist study and practice, for the upcoming week I’m aiming to make my curfew every night, cross train by swimming and biking, and get some physiotherapy or acupuncture to support my body so I don’t go to Russia worn out and injured. Not my most upbeat update but that’s the week that was…continuing on in the face of doubt, frustration, fatigue and disappointment…a very good skill for mountaineers and lowlanders alike.
I hope your week was better than mine. Given the endorphins of my long run and a few good nights sleep, things already look some brighter.
Catch ya in seven,
Happy Tely Ten Day to All, 7/23/2006
The Tely Ten, for all of those who live outside St. John’s, is the biggest road race of the year in Newfoundland. It is a 10-mile race that has been run for the past 79 years. I ran it for the first time today. I ran it after backpacking for three days with my students from Portugal Cove to Bauline on the East Coast Trail. Not sure the above 2 activities fit into the definition of a rest week, but life’s like that sometimes.
The rest in the early part of the week and the few extra hours of time have made a big difference and I’m ready to go back to full-fledged training. I have one more training cycle before Mount Elbrus, and I want to work hard so that I go to Russia in peak form. I’ve begun to watch the weather patterns on the mountain and trying to go through the last stages of gear acquisition for this next big adventure.
Given the extra time this week, I was able to complete the glossary for my Denali book and then even had a few extra moments to play around with what happens when Buddhism really meets mountaineering…
A Year on Denali Glossary
A tube-like sack made of Gore Tex that protects a sleeping bag from the elements.
“Awakened mind/heart.” Bodhichitta is the fundamental motivation for Buddhist practice and is divided into two kinds: Absolute and Relative. Absolute bodhichitta is our natural wide-open state of awakedness. Relative bodhichitta is the compassion and loving-kindness that arises from glimpsing or understanding absolute bodhichitta, which in turn, inspires us to practice for the benefit of others.
“Awake being.” A bodhisattva is someone who has become enlightened or who inspires to enlightenment and has dedicated his or her life to liberating all sentient beings.
The Bodhisattva Vow is taken after the Refuge Vow. Someone taking the Bodhisattva Vow declares that she or he will not realize enlightenment until all sentient beings have done so and dedicates her or his practice to helping others attain enlightenment.
Dedication of Merit
One of many chants that dedicate the merit of one’s practice or actions to the good of all sentient beings.
The teachings of the Buddha
High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE)
A potentially lethal high altitude illness caused by brain swelling. It causes severe headache, changes in mental status and difficulty walking.
High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE)
A potentially lethal high altitude illness caused by leakage of fluid into the lungs. It causes difficulty breathing, fatigue, and weakness.
Lojong Mind Training
A Buddhist practice that uses the study of 59 slogans to cultivate bodhichitta. The slogans provide antidotes to ways of thinking that create suffering and they show us ways of understanding and being in the world that enable us to let go of our grasping to self.
An accumulation of boulders, stones, or other debris carried and deposited by a glacier.
A measure of the percentage of oxygen in the blood that indicates the status of one’s acclimatization.
A snow hut, originally made by Aboriginal People of the Canadian plains, by piling up snow into a mound, letting it settle, and then digging out the center to form a concave shelter.
In taking the Refuge Vow, a person becomes a Buddhist by taking refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.
A community of people who have taken the Refuge Vow and/or who follow the teachings of the Buddha
A large pointed mass of ice in a glacier isolated by intersecting crevasses or by an icefall.
The Buddhist practice of breathing in and taking the suffering of self and others and breathing out and sending relief from that suffering.
The Glossary When Buddhism Meets Mountaineering
Bivouac Sack Bodhichitta
A tube-like sack made of Gore Tex that protects a sentient being from being awakened all night long by the elements thereby allowing awakened mind/heart during the day
A measure of the percentage of enlightenment in the blood that indicates the status of one’s liberation.
Dedication of Moraine
One of many chants that dedicate the merit of one’s accumulation of boulders, stones, or other debris carried and deposited by a glacier.
High Altitude Lojong Mind Edema (HALME)
A potentially lethal high altitude illness caused by brain swelling. It causes severe headache, strange verbalizations of Buddhist slogans, and difficulty remaining asleep/unawake.
A snow hut, originally made by Aboriginal People of the Canadian plains, by piling breathing in snow into a mound, letting it settle, and then breathing out the center to form a concave shelter.
A community of people who have taken the Refuge Vow and/or who reside in on large pointed mass of ice on a glacier isolated by intersecting crevasses or by an icefall.
And has sometimes been the case, during a rest week, I let someone else write the majority of my weekly update…for this week, I turn to Jeff Green from Memorial’s Marketing and Communications Department. The University announced this week that I had won the Atlantic Universities Association Distinguished Teaching Award for 2006. The award will be presented next spring. Here is Jeff’s write-up…it can also be found at http://today.mun.ca/news.php?news_id=2252
Top Teaching Prize for HKR Prof
By Jeff Green
A Memorial University of Newfoundland professor known for her passion for outdoor education and recreation has just received another top award.
Dr. TA Loeffler, who teaches in the School of Human Kinetics and Recreation, has been named a winner of the Association of Atlantic Universities (AAU) regional awards for excellence in teaching and instructional leadership.
She will receive the 2006 AAU Distinguished Teacher Award which recognizes outstanding teaching over a number of years at a formal ceremony next year.
“Receiving recognition for my work is always a big deal,” said Dr. Loeffler, who has been teaching at Memorial since 1995. “This award required the co-operation of several nominators and the Instructional Development Office to pull off. That my teaching excellence has been recognized outside of MUN is a tremendous honour. It means I must really be doing something right.”
Dr. Loeffler, who received Memorial’s own President’s Award for Distinguished Teaching in November 2005, was notified of her latest honour on June 28 by Dr. Axel Meisen, president of Memorial and chair of the AAU.
One of Memorial’s best-known – and prolific – outdoor educators, Dr. Loeffler has taught more than 14 different courses ranging from outdoor education to tourism to women and sport. She was also instrumental in developing the university’s Bachelor of Recreation program and has served on countless committees at Memorial.
Over the past 11 years, Dr. Loeffler has become one of the most versatile teachers at the university, encouraging her students to use their creativity to realize their maximum potential.
“As an experiential and outdoor educator, I integrate experiences into every course I teach,” she explained. “Given these two identities, experiential learning opportunities are key components of any class I teach. I use a `living the model’ approach whenever possible. I request that students think about how the many things they are learning integrate and interrelate. I assign final projects that require integration of various subject matters.”
She also tries to get her students out of the classroom as much as possible. Earlier this month, she took a group rock climbing in Flatrock, on the province’s Northeast Avalon.
“Field trips provide opportunities for application of course concepts and for fun, shared experiences that build a sense of community with each course,” Dr. Loeffler said.
The association announced last week that two other professors from Atlantic Canada have been highlighted for excellence in teaching. Dr. Erin Steuter, who teaches in the Department of Sociology at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick, and Professor Judith Scrimger, who teaches in the Department of Public Relations at Mount Saint Vincent University in Nova Scotia, will also receive awards next year.
For her part, Dr. Loeffler said being singled out by the association for her teaching is very rewarding.
“Teaching is both a creative and courageous act,” she said. “It demands that I reach deep into myself to muster the best possible way to convey information, inspire learning, and meet the students where they are. My career at Memorial has allowed me to build on my passions in all aspects of my work including teaching, research and service.”
Dr. Loeffler said her time at Memorial has also allowed her to challenge herself personally. Last summer, she climbed North America’s highest mountain, a feat accomplished by only a select few climbers in the world. She reached Mount McKinley in Alaska’s Denali National Park and Preserve – which is 20,320 feet above sea level – on June 26, 2005. She plans to conquer Europe’s highest peak this summer.
“I will be attempting to climb Mount Elbrus in late August. It is located in southern Russia. I will be attempting Aconcagua in December. I’ll spend both Christmas and New Year’s on the mountain. Aconcagua is the highest peak in South America and the Western Hemisphere and will be my third of the world’s seven highest summits. I’m currently fundraising for a climb of Mount Everest in March or May of 2007.”
I hope all had a good week–more next week from the road to Elbrus, Everest, and beyond. Take good care,
Greetings from the Dawn of a Rest Week 7/16/2006
How did it get to be Sunday again? Time is cruising along as the pace of a Japanese bullet train these days. I did my run this morning and am now basking in the glory of a rest week. I’ve pushed myself very hard over the last four weeks and I’m eager to recharge, rest, and get ready for Mount Elbrus. I realized today that it’s time for me to shift my visualization away from Everest for the next weeks and focus exclusively on Elbrus. I want to be in peak physical and mental form for the challenge of Europe’s highest peak. I depart on August 26th.
It was a week of many ups and downs. My new pair of sunshine yellow mountaineering boots arrived and fit! It was a HUGE relief that I didn’t need to send them back cross-country to try another size. They are Koflach Arctis Expe boots that are rated to minus 55 degrees. My toes should be safely protected on my next two climbs. My new crampons also arrived–Black Diamond Sabertooths–they are sharp, serrated and ready to go. Slowly but surely, I’m replacing my decades old mountaineering gear with lighter weight, more modern options! Stomping around the house in my new boots brought a sense of determination and excitement back into my weary body. I’ll post pictures of my new boots and crampons to my website later today.
I, along with Liz and Natelle, took my outdoor education class out to Flatrock for a day of climbing and rappelling. The whales and weather cooperated to facilitate a most awesome day for all on the rocks. Hearing the clinking of carabiners, handling ropes, and building anchors for the climbs awakened a connection to rockclimbing that’s been dormant for the last while. I hope to spend more time out on the cliffs before the summer is through.
Another highlight of the week was doing my last motivational speech of the season to the Shad Valley program. This program brings talented young people together for a week of experiential learning. They were a most attentive audience and they asked question after question. They were going to climb Gros Morne as part of their program so I could draw lots of parallels between their upcoming experience and my time on Denali. Finally, I carved out a good chunk of time to get back into the editing of my Denali book. It’s nearing completion and I’ll start the process of looking for a publisher. If any of you have experience of or hints for this next stage of the process, I am all ears!
Fatigue was a constant companion this week as was the blackness of premenstrual hormones. I had to fight past both to stay motivated and on-task with training. The final blow of the week came on Friday when the insurance company denied my claim for my stolen camera equipment. I took it hard and felt a bit like I’d been hit by a MAC truck by the time Saturday rolled into the station. I’ve decided to appeal their decision and will articulate my arguments to them in a letter later today. Though the low periods are hard, they are talented teachers. They instruct me to stop to breathe, come to presence in the moment, practice compassion, and surround myself with gentle care. All lessons that I find crucial in both the course of daily life and mountaineering expeditions.
I hope all is well with you. Thanks for being there by surrounding me with care and your unwavering belief in me. I couldn’t be doing this without you.
Happy World Cup Final Day! 7/9/2006
What did billions around the globe do today that I didn’t? If you
answered, “Watch the World Cup Final,” you are right. I didn’t quite
fit it into my day. Sundays almost always mean a long run and today
was no exception. I ran my new favorite route that circles three
ponds, parallels two rivers, and cruises one lake…about 20 kilometers
worth. My running is getting back up to strength after the Placentia
Bay trip just in time for the Tely Ten Race in two weeks. I spent much
of today writing fundraising and thank-you letters. I did sneak in a
drive to Flatrock to go whale spotting-a humpback obliged our efforts.
I know many of you are dying for the next installment of “As TA’s
Outfit Turns.” After the last episode you were left hanging with the
questions of “Will TA spend $700 on an outfit?” “Will she find one to
beg, borrow or steal?” “Just what will she wear to her big
engagement….” To answer these questions, I’ll turn the recorder back
to early last week when it was time to visit all the pawn shops in St.
John’s to look for my stolen camera gear. To my dismay, we never found
the cameras but the search did take us close to Value Village…I
suggested we stop in for a quick peak. I tried on about 15 different
jackets and found a few possibilities. Wondered over to the outfit
aisle and found two coordinated outfits that I could imagine wearing
(as opposed to most which would look fabulous on my Oma) and hiked over
to the change room.
The first, a dusty rose rayon number, appeared tired and saggy so it
quickly rejoined the ranks of the unchosen. The next one…”Love at
first sight” might be too weak a description…a navy blue suit with
scarf collar (my vocabulary has increased this week)…comfy…I looked
good…it was $8…perfect…I’ll take it. Onto to the shoes aisle…there was
a pair of blue leather low pumps in my size for $3.50…yes, the fashion
goddess was looking after me now…after two weeks of sweat, toil, and
exertion-the search had come to fruition…I wouldn’t be laughed out of
Government House and I would still be able to afford the mountaineering
boots rated to minus 55. My piggies wouldn’t have to go to the
frostbite market after all.
Judy offered to press the new outfit because she knew of my neophyte
pressing skills. I picked up the outfit on Thursday afternoon and
headed home to get ready for the big occasion. Since the suit was navy
and seemed to be a magnet for everything dusty or dirty, I elected not
to put the suit on until Judy arrived to take pictures thus reducing
the risk of me spilling something on it and causing a disaster.
Remember soap operas always have a twist…I put on the suit at 6:45 pm
being due at Government House at 7 and discovered…that the pants were
too long. We had failed to recognize this fact at the store because of
the immense relief at finding something that could work for “Ms.
Seriously Fashion Challenged 2006.”
You can imagine the panicked looks that graced our faces as we scanned
my universe for something to hem the pants with…couldn’t put my hands
on the sewing kit I picked up in the hotel in Tibet, couldn’t find the
glue gun, the chalking gun would be too messy, and time was ticking
away…we settled on stapling the pants up-one staple on each side of the
pant leg discreetly placed, of course…a marker was used to disguise the
glint of the shortening device and after a few pictures, off I went
with heart beating a Strauss Waltz in my throat. You can find a picture of the outfit
in the “Road to Everest Gallery” on my website.
The evening was magic, worth every second of exertion and panic, a
unique combination of relaxed formality. As we passed into the dining
room, each guest was announced to the Lieutenant Governor and Governor
General. The Lieutenant Governor then spoke a few words about each
person and then we proceeded down the receiving line. The Lieutenant
Governor introduced me as “This small thing that stands before you will
be climbing Mount Everest next spring.”
In that moment, I knew how I’d made the radar for the event. There
were 22 guests at the dinner besides Their Excellencies and Their
Honours. His Honour, Ed Roberts, described the assembled crowd in this
way, “the guest list included woman and men, young and old, who made
contributions in many fields of endeavor. Every person who attended
the dinner did their part to help improve Canada and represent the best
of Newfoundland and Labrador.” “Whew,” I thought, “That’s a big
billing to fill.”
I was seated next to the Lieutenant Governor during dinner and we had a
long conversation about mountaineering, the bigger aims I am trying to
achieve with the climbs, and the recent Everest controversies. The
Governor General, who was seated next to the Lieutenant Governor,
joined the conversation when I was talking about how I believe we all
have our own mountains. We all have dreams and goals that inspire us
to new heights even if we never leave sea level. She agreed and later
in the evening she told me that she’d never forget the idea of our
“inner mountains.” The evening ended with some sharing of songs from
Newfoundland and Haiti. It was a great honour to have attended the
dinner and the memories of it will keep me training hard for weeks to
Heading into week four of the training cycle-fatigue is mounting and
I’ll be eager for a rest week. Hope all is well and engaging in your
corner of the world. Drop me a line if you get a chance–it’s always
nice to know what you’re up to–what’s your inner mountain these days?
Take good care,
Happy Canada Day! 7/2/2006
This week, the road to Everest was paved with potholes, speed bumps, and scenic overlooks-a veritable roller coaster of experiences. After ten months out of the classroom, I was back to teaching three intense summer session courses and fitting 20 hours of training around class and prep time. Discipline is once again a close companion, as I have to pack two hours of training in before school, an hour over lunch, and an hour or two in the evening before bed. Sleep wasn’t hard to find either as I drop into unmoving unconsciousness the moment my head grazes the pillow each night. Days sped by like the bullet train I once rode on in Japan and the week stalked the days like a cheetah hunts the gazelle. Yup…life is fast and furious!
I got through the first few days on adrenaline and hope. By Thursday, I was started to lag with cumulative fatigue but Freshwater Bay held out a cure. My outdoor sampler class was hiking from Shea Heights to Black Head as its first adventure. The sun shone down in such a way to grant pause and gratitude. We drank in the view from atop the South Side Hills and toasted our luck in weather. As the day and hike progressed, the unusual warmth gave way to weary bones, dehydrated interstitial spaces, and a generous portion of proud smiles all round.
After spending the day hiking 10 miles, I faced an even greater challenge. My friend Natalie decided to turn table on me and introduce me to a part of the world in which she is most comfortable. Natalie frequently refers to me as “Her Tormentor” because I taught her how to work out in the gym. Thursday, Natalie earned the title of “Supreme Tormentor” in my life. After I confessed that I’d been invited to dinner at Government House with the Lieutenant Governor of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Governor General of Canada and that I didn’t have the foggiest idea of what I would wear, she rushed me downtown to her favorite store, “Johnny Ruth’s.”
She introduced me to the store clerk as her “Fashionally Hopeless” friend and barred the door so I couldn’t escape. Soon, instead of sets and reps in the gym, I was intimately familiar with outfits and tops. Trying to get one outfit “to work,” I tried on 16 different tops. For reference, that’s more tops that I’ve worn in the past three months. Each change required me to have the greatest dexterity as I had to wiggle into the small change room, practice gentle yoga, convince the delicate fabrics to give up their sweat secured hold on my muscular frame, and pray that I ripped no stitching. I figured it was great practice for putting on seventeen layers and crampons in a crowded tent.
After four outfits and 32 different tops, we all agreed that we’d found the one combination “that worked.” It was dressy enough, comfortable enough, covered enough…there was only one problem…when the bill was added up, my simple little outfit came to a total of $700.00. I just about died. That was the price of my down suit for Everest, a fabulous pair of mountaineering boots, or a Gortex “outfit” that would protect me in a broad range of mountain weather. I had sticker shock and Natalie knew it was time to feed me. Over Indian food, we laughed about our Johnny Ruth experience until tears ran down our cheeks. I didn’t go back to buy the suit…I’m still searching for the right thing to wear-if anyone is my size and can provide the perfect outfit, please let me know-the dinner is Thursday night.
Friday, I dragged myself out of bed for a run. I left the house unloacked as usual so I wouldn’t have to carry a key while I ran. I’ve been nursing lessons of compassion and non-attachment since. While I was out running my 8 kilometers, someone came into the house and stole two of my most precious companions: my two cameras. One of the cameras I’ve had for 10 years now and it has accompanied me on most adventures. The other was my brand spanking new digital SLR body that I purchased with my teaching award money a few weeks back. I’d taken just 3 pictures with it. As you know, sometimes making decisions can be a challenge and I labored over what tool would most support my teaching endeavors and finally had decided that a new digital SLR would allow me to capture great images to take back to the classroom.
I spent the day ripping the house apart trying to ensure that I hadn’t hidden them from myself. I had a friend come over and used fresh eyes to no avail. As the day progressed, the reality of loss, vulnerability, and theft became clear. The cameras were no longer mine. I was devastated at first, filled with disbelief that my tools of self-expression were gone. Then came brief bursts of anger that subsided quickly to a sense of vulnerability. Had the person who’d stolen the cameras been watching the house? Was it a fluke? Were the cameras taken before Friday? Would the thief come back? Scenarios swirled before my eyes and I had to work very closely with my thoughts and emotions to get through the day. One of the things Buddhism has taught me is that all things pass-that everything is impermanent-even cameras and emotions-so I knew to be patient and wait. The sense of overwhelm would pass and I would find some level ground on which to rest. I recognized the opportunity for high stakes practice as the mountains in my path will undoubtedly invoke similar scenarios of overwhelm.
Saturday, I knew I needed to move so I switched my long run up a day and found solace and strength and resiliency in the meditative run. For two hours, I explored the trailways of St. John’s and finally my mind settled and I began to nurture a growing sense of compassion for the thief. I know that someone must be in desperate circumstances to enter the house of another to secure goods to sell. I opened my heart to that desperation and sowed the seeds of forgiveness in that fertile soil, forgiving both the thief for stealing and me for leaving the house unlocked. I stopped chastising myself for having faith and trust in my neighbourhood because that is actually something I value in myself-I don’t want two cameras to take that from me.
Saturday also found me devoting part of the holiday to my “Year on Everest Wall.” I knew I needed both a creative outlet to help things continue to flow. As well, I’d been craving a visual representation of the road ahead. So outside my office once again, I’ve drawn on the walls-this time-instead of one peak, four. Starting from the left are Deanli, Elbrus, Aconcagua and Everest-with an attitude scale on one side and a timeline along the bottom. I look forward to putting pictures and sayings you forward to me on the wall once again. The wall helps me keep the view in sight and keeps me making the footsteps to get there…See a picture of the wall in photo gallery called “Other Adventures”. Thanks to my friend, Judy, for helping out with the wall.
At Judy’s insistence that I needed some ocean time, we drove to the very tip of the Avalon Peninsula at Cape St. Francis. The sun cradled me gently as I imagined what it would be like to see the curvature of the earth from Everest’s heights. A humpback whale came close to shore and invited me back from my daydream…a fine invitation to return home to Canada Day. See the picture of my Canada Day Summit Pose at Cape St. Francis in photo gallery called “Other Adventures”. …you know me, I like to practice.
A few months I mentioned that a local poet, Wade Kearley, had composed a poem inspired by my training and climb of Denali. His book has since been published and he’s given me permission to put the poem on my website and so I thought I would now send it out to all of you.
Prayer for the Denali climber
“To forget little things you have to climb a mountain.”
Out of the perfume of spruce inside her dreams
this summit rises to twenty thousand feet–Mount Denali:
kettle ponds turquoise above the timberline,
above the sedge, above the mosses and lichens,
above the cliff-dwelling Dall,
above crevasses in the U-shaped valleys
gouged by receding glaciers,
and way above her comfort zone.
She saw it first two years ago,
distant as the hood of god.
It’s loomed above her ever since.
She’s tried little things to forget,
tried wearing dresses for a week,
counting change with mittens on,
mixing batter without licking the bowl.
But no matter where she is, she imagines
she’s on Denali where an avalanche
crackles in her ear. “My life’s at risk,
even when I’m baking brownies.”
Nothing can ease that, not meditation,
not embracing Buddha,
not five days in a stormbound tent
drinking melted snow.
So she trains to climb Denali.
Training is simple: run up every staircase
and pray to endure four weeks snow-blind,
lugging her body weight into the sky
at 40 below in 100-kilometre winds,
celebrating her birthday on the slopes.
Her struggle is with the voice that tells her
“You can’t do this. You’re not fast enough.
You’re too old.” She would enter legend,
merge with the unforgettable dream
white-tipped and luminous in the distance.
It spoke to her? It promised to tell her things
like “You are deeply resilient. You are strong.
Your will is hard.” No one can tell her that
and make it sound convincing. The mountain
is her guru, collecting frozen legs and arms
like prayer flags in film footage of failed attempts.
What will she remember as she drags
her oxygen-deprived self up a lead rope
strung across the roof of infinity?
When the wind blows through her bones
dreams are released, are released.
Let her be present in that moment,
in every moment along the way.
Let her be aware of each fingertip
and not-yet-frozen toe.
Let her live to give herself away
in stories to the children.
Nothing can be forgotten
until she climbs the impossible.
From “Let Me Burn Like This: Prayers from the Ashes.” by Wade Kearley
The poems in this collection use narrative and character sketches to capture the heroism in our daily lives as we struggle with our emotions and desires, our doubts and our darker visions, to find the courage within ourselves to live our life, freely and with dignity.
Have a good week-send some good thoughts and quotes and energy my way. I appreciate you being along on the road, both for times when the road washes away and leaves potholes and for when the road rises up and reveals an amazing view and all the times in between.