The Deep Well

Good Morning to All,


The early morning, early winter light is draping the South Side Hills in a gentle blanket of rose taffeta.  As I glance out the window, my gaze lowers to the delightfully delicate blossoms on our “rescued” Christmas cactus.  I’ve been learning to garden this year and this adventure has included bringing home some of the half-price specials from the local grocery store.  We’ve saved them all and the cactus’ blooms are reward for this behaviour and are reminiscent of origami cranes launching into flight from green branches.


A steaming of cup of tea warms me from the inside and is part of my swine flu avoidance program.  I’m settling into my chair to reflect on the week and see what rises to the top of my mind for sharing with you today.  It was a week where I wrote frequent updates to you in my mind hoping to capture a moment or an insight, and now I wish I’d actually had put pen to paper so I could remember what some of them were.  Images from the later part of the week are most present in my mind so I’ll start there and see what I weave out on the warp of the week.


I did three inspirational speaking engagements in the past three days: one in Gander to newly elected municipal officials from across the province, one to the Canadian Institute of Metallurgy and one to a Body, Mind, and Spirit retreat.  Each group was very different in how they responded and the parts of the message that resonated with them as well as being remarkably similar.  I am always awed when an audience rises in tribute at the end of one of my talks;  I’m humbled and almost always–embarrassed.  I do my best to accept their appreciation gracefully and silently hope that they will take something forward from the presentation into whatever challenges they are facing in their lives.


I know for me that I try to take something forward from each climb or adventure into those that come next.  From Denali, I took discipline and the knowledge of how routine both inspires and nurtures discipline.  From Aconcagua, I experienced both the demands and rewards of patience.  Kilimanjaro brought the joys of shared experience, camaraderie, and an invitation to venture once again into deep relationship.  Oyos de Salado delivered the courage to begin again leaving disappointment in its wake and Pumori taught me that in giving, I receive more much in return.  Kosciuszko and other Australian experiences have delivered a plethora of summons to nurture curiosity, connection, and vulnerability.


As I think back over the delight of seeing kangaroos leaping gracefully in the distance or poised in silent witness at the side of the road, I am struck with the privilege of drinking deeply at the well of experience.  Some times the water is so sweet and refreshing and at others, bitter and hard to swallow.  It takes courage to continue to visit the spring never knowing what I will carry away in my life’s bucket.  The temptation to withdraw within is there for me but mostly I try to embrace the following instruction from Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche that “The everyday practice is simply to develop complete acceptance and openness to all situations and emotions, and to all people, experiencing everything totally without reservations or blockages so that one never withdraws or centralizes into oneself.”  (Thanks to Susan for reminding me of this instruction with every email she sends).

An image of climbing a knife-edged ridge comes into my mind.  In some mountaineering texts I’ve read, they caution that when climbing such a ridge that if my climbing partner falls to one side of the ridge, I should be prepared to hurl myself over the other side thus stringing the rope that connects us over the top.  This would leave us “safely” hanging over the two precipices but in quite a predicament.  We’d have to sort out how to climb back to the ridge without introducing slack into the system that could enable the other to fall further down the slope.  There is both vulnerability and safety that comes in roping up together and facing the challenges of climbing (and life) in community.


In talking with my homeopath this week, I saw clearly that I am being invited to experience the vulnerability that comes with the openness that the Chogyam Rinpoche was teaching about.  I also perceived that in my vulnerability is my strength so rather than avoid it, it’s time to embrace it.  One of the gifts of my Germanic heritage is the ability to be stoic and to carry the sense of needing to pull off many things without help.  As I look at the realities of preparing for and climbing Mount Everest, I see that I need to expand beyond what is comfortable and to be in the world in new and different ways and for this week, that way is being vulnerable and open to whatever is coming my way.


I also need to ask for help–something I’m not terribly good at…in one of my Buddhist texts, there is a list of 49 ways in which a Bodhisattva can fail.  At the moment, I can only recall one of them:  “Failing to enable or allow the generosity of others.”  Funny how that goes…so I’m going to practice asking for help.  There are numerous ways that you can help out or support me as I traverse the path that is taking me back to the world’s tallest mountain.  I’ll type the list of ideas that pop into my head–if any of them seem like an invitation to you, drop me a line and I’ll provide more details. 


Some of the things/areas I need help with:


Inspiration:        I’m looking for folks to write letters/notes that I can take on the mountain and open when the going gets tough (written on lightweight paper).  I can also use regular doses of inspiration/motivation along the way.


Sponsorship:        We’ve almost got my new and improved sponsorship package completed.  I need connections.  As I am phone-phobic and a quite shy academic, I could use help in setting up meetings where I can present my expedition to potential funders/sponsors.  I feel like I can stretch and do well at such meetings but I’m at a loss at who to meet with.  Do you have folks you could introduce me to?  Could you be a sponsor or do you work for an organization that could be a sponsor?  As a side note, this year I do have a sponsorship option that can include a charitable receipt.


Driving:        Soon it will be time to start doing multiple ascents of Signal Hill once again, could you donate a few hours of driving downhill to enable this valuable training process?


Training:        Sometimes training alone is a drag.  Company is nice on occasion.  I’m looking for folks who’d like to go out for a hike or keep me company as I do some of my training. 


Eating Well:        Balancing work, training, speaking, and fundraising can leave little time out in a day.  In the past, some folks have helped out by sharing meals.  If you’re cooking a big batch of something, perhaps you could freeze a serving or two that I can store in my freezer when life is too full to cook.


Curriculum:         I’m redesigning the school curriculum we created in 2007 for teachers to use with their students.  I’m looking for a few folks to help out with the revision–finding good Internet links about Everest and Nepal that can be included in the package that will go out to schools once again in the spring.


Ladders:        Along with physical training, I want to practice skills that will speed up my travel on the mountain.  I want to construct a “Khumbu” training ground in my back garden so I am looking for four or five aluminum ladders that I can borrow/have.  They would be leaving outside during the winter so they should probably be old ladders nearing the end of their useful lives.  The other day I asked Earl Ludlow if Newfoundland Power might have some old ones.  I also wondered about Aliant…anyone else have an old ladder kicking about?


Boot Heating:        Some climbers use boot and/or glove heating systems at high altitude.  I have used the charcoal kind but am wondering about the battery powered systems–anyone have such a system that I could try out?


Gear:        There are just a few pieces of gear that I need to acquire for this climb…a four season base camp tent, some new goggles, and perhaps a new expedition communications system (I’m contemplating moving up to a netbook from the PDA).  Batteries…always need batteries…especially lithium double and triple A kind.


Donations:        The Everest 2010 Mountain of Learning Experiential Education Award at Memorial University of Newfoundland has been created and there is now an on-line donation option.  Here is the URL and please ensure you click the button for the award so your contribution gets to the right place.  With many of us adding a small amount to the award, we’ll reach the summit of being able to support students in short order.  Thanks in advance.


That’s a good list for now.  There will be other things that come up and I’ll pass on my requests along the way.  Thanks for checking out the list and I appreciate your support in all the many ways it appears.


I want to thank the sponsors who have come on-board already for Everest 2010.  AppleCore Interactive has been with me since I climbed Denali and I can’t imagine doing this without their support and expertise.  The Egg Producers of Newfoundland and Labrador have been an important 2009 sponsor and I hope you’ve heard our second radio commercial “3000 eggs.”  I’d also like to thank my newest sponsor, Allied Health Services of the School of Human Kinetics and Recreation.  They have offered to support my training and preparation through nutritional counseling, athletic therapy, massage therapy, and exercise testing. 


Have a good week,




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