Settling Back In

Happy Father’s Day,

Today will be a day I miss my dad more than most. Yesterday hundreds of motorcycles rode down Duckworth Street in the “Ride for Dad”, a prostate cancer fundraiser and tears rolled down my cheeks as the bikes rolled down the road. I’ve spent much of the past two weeks trying to find a motorcycle to buy to make my dad’s legacy of riding a reality here for me. I’ve had my eyes on a particular bike that’s very hard to come by if you don’t order if nine months out. With Everest, I didn’t manage to pull that off. So I’m wondering if I should go with another bike for now to not lose another season of riding.

You see, one of my major ways of coping with “coming down” from a major expedition is to surf…almost excessively…looking for the next adventure. So since getting home almost two weeks ago, my attention has been evenly split between motorcycles and mountains and a wee bit of unpacking. Oh yeah, and lots of stories and presentations…

A highlight of being home is beginning to tell the stories of the mountain: to family, to friends, and to large groups of folks…by far, though, the biggest joy has been taking Flat Stanley back to his school, C.C. Loughlin on Thursday past. Thanks to a generous donation of an airline ticket, I was able to fly to Deer Lake and return Flat Stanley to Patricia Edward’s Grade Three class. From the moment I walked into the school, I was greeted enthusiastically with wild cheers. At a school assembly, I presented pictures of Flat Stanley’s adventures on Everest and then took questions from the floor. The Grade Threes had practiced hard so they could sing me two songs that just about had me in tears. The media dropped by and here’s a link to one of the stories:

Patricia took me out for lunch and I was thrilled to hear of all the cross-curricular activities she was able to do with her class related to the climb: math, science, physical education, geography, social studies, and more. In her introduction of me to the school, she said she would never have another amazing teaching year like this one (I told her I would happily take Flat Stanley again so hopefully we can have another amazing year together). I was very touched and moved by what she said and in that moment, I could once again see that when I am climbing, I’m reaching my goal of having an expedition be much “More than a Mountain.” It helps with the current disappointment and paves the way to set even bigger goals around youth and school outreach/engagement.
It also gives me a chance to see “the ripples in the pond.”

I believe with our lives (with our kindness, our compassion, our bravery, our adventures), we “drop pebbles in the pond” and we don’t often get to see the ripples the pebbles create. On rare occasions, the ripples refract back to us and we get the privilege of seeing the impact of our lives on others. Since Denali, it’s been my intention to reach out to others with my climbs and this week, I got to see the small waves come back to me. I trust that those waves will cause other ripples that will lead to even bigger waves one day; those kids have some big dreams and goals to nurture.

Along with unpacking the four big duffels of gear, I’ve been unpacking the stories of the expedition, both in my mind and as I tell them. What I realized this expedition, is that the same story can be told many ways. I saw this as my teammates descended and the picture we had in our mind at basecamp was different that the one they told. I can see that the stories/perceptions I had in my mind at high elevation look different at sea level. And of course, I’m left to wonder if the outcome would have been different with different choices…hindsight always has the blessing of looking back, the wisdom of knowing at least one outcome. I haven’t been “second guessing” my decision so much as playing around with/reflecting on lessons that I will use next time.

For example, I wonder how things would have gone if I had descended to Pheriche with the first bladder infection instead of the second. We’ll never know but you can be sure I will descend next time at the very first sighting of bacteria. I’ll also bring more treatment options. In 2007, I was felled first by a respiratory infection and then Giardia…this trip I was lucky to suffer neither a cough nor any GI distress (probably because I focused on preventing them). I’ll attempt to prevent all three next time and hopefully ward off all the other maladies as well. The truth is it’s hard to stay healthy when living at 5300 metres and above; you can do everything “right” and still get sick.

So, a small glimpse into how my mind is working with things at the moment…reflecting, planning, dissecting, wondering, wandering…all in a gentle kind of way. Not blaming or attacking…more with a curiosity for learning…and a penchant for wondering where the story will land in the end.

OK…the veggies for the deck container garden are calling as is more web surfing for bikes and for the next mountain…stay tuned for what’s coming next. Many thanks to all of you for your support when I was on the mountain and now as I am settling back into “regular” life.


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