On waiting and embracing: a somewhat apologetic return from a lengthy hiatus

At times it is folly to hasten; at other times, to delay. The wise do everything in its proper time.
– Ovid

Golden aspens near Buena Vista, CO.
Golden aspens near Buena Vista, CO.

More than six months have passed since we moved to Colorado and, regrettably, since I last wrote here. My extended silence has certainly not been for lack of inspiration; here we are surrounded by indescribable beauty, settled in the eastern shadow of the Rocky Mountains. Endless jagged peaks rise to the west as a seemingly impenetrable fortress of granite, snow, and ice. Aspen groves scatter like boneyards, their golden leaves long abandoned by the frigid night. Rivers, half frozen, wind tortuously through hidden valleys and intimidating gorges. From these mountains, the eastern landscape spills forth almost as an afterthought. Foothills kicking at flatlands. Waist-high grasses rolling in the wind like waves on a golden ocean. The eastern horizon interminably flat and unremarkable, save for a jumble of urban monoliths protesting the impending monotony. Beyond, innumerable fields of sunflowers, wheat, corn, and soy, waiting patiently for spring. The Great Plains, expansive and uninviting like the southwest deserts from whence we came. Continue reading

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Sacred places: Utah’s canyon country

IMG_20131130_105913Every one of us has a sacred place somewhere. I believe there is a physical place on this earth that occupies an unsullied space in each of our lives, where we retreat when we are in need of respite. This is not a “happy place” per se; it is instead a powerful place, forcing us into a state of retrospection, introspection, and an openness of spirit.

For me, that place is the canyon country of southeastern Utah.

There is something about the mesas, towers, and gaping expanses of this place that speaks to me, draws me in and holds me willing captive. We go there on the pretense of climbing, but what I feel is far more than the cold sandstone against my skin, the hollow breeze whispering in my ear, or the echoing cries of coyotes in the night wind.

My memories of this place stack on top of one another in a multifaceted tapestry of joy, sadness, triumph, pain, curiosity, fear and healing. There is a rawness here that envelops me, leaves me exposed to both memory and discovery. This place has its own voice, and it calls to me from open country. Continue reading

The genetics of risk: a close call in Squamish

Death smiles at us all;
all a man can do is smile back.
― Marcus Aurelius 

Enjoying the view in beautiful Squamish.
Enjoying the view in beautiful Squamish.

Two months ago I found myself pondering death in a more immediate way than usual. In fact, I was pretty certain I would be dead less than thirty seconds from the time this thought first arose. Aside from my blood-curdling scream and subsequent adrenaline-induced hyperventilation, I was pretty calm about the prospect of impending death.

We were in Squamish, British Columbia, on a climbing trip (part of my Pacific Northwest road trip). Ben and I had decided to climb one of our favorite routes at the base of the Stawamus Chief, a 2,300-foot granite monolith overlooking the sparkling turquoise fjords of the Sea to Sky Highway. The weather had cleared after a day of heavy rain, and we were about a hundred feet of the ground when we heard it.

A thunderous crack. A crashing, rumbling, echoing roar interspersed with the screams of other climbing parties higher up on the wall ahead of us. As I looked up, I realized that everyone was yelling, “ROCK!” As a climber, this is never something you want to hear. Continue reading