“One climbs, one sees. One descends, one sees no longer, but one has seen. There is an art in conducting oneself in lower regions by memory of what one has seen higher up. When one can no longer see, one can at least still know.” – Rene Daumal
I felt my phone ping with a message while I was trying to get dinner on the table the other night. At that moment, one little person wanted raw carrots instead of the perfectly grilled carrots and needed more hummus. The other little person was tired and having a moment of personal crisis and didn’t want to eat at all. As I was shuttling between kitchen and table, I snuck a glance at the message. It was my friend inviting me on a mountain climb of Mt. Adams with him and his son this summer.
Oh, it was so easy to envision myself away from that disastrous dinner and instead picture eating instant noodles from a tin cup on the side of a mountain at our base camp at 9,750 feet. I felt like it would be a complete luxury to say “yes” to climbing and trade in the work of parenting for a couple of days of slogging up a mountain with only the sound of our breathing and our footsteps crunching in the snow.
Even though I could rationalize how safe a climb Mt. Adams is with no crevasses or avalanche danger and rest in the reassurance of climbing with a friend that I’ve summitted that mountain twice with, I knew I’d have to say “no.”
Because even a safe mountain climb means being on the side of a 12,281 foot mountain for a couple of days, exposed to weather and human frailty. And in the very slight case that anything happened and I got hurt or dead, I’d be so angry at myself for leaving behind two young kids. Even if I was dead – I’d be dead and angry!
It highlighted for me the wide chasm between who I am now and who I used to be before kids. First of all, I’m entirely flattered that my friend thinks I could make it up Mt. Adams.
Secondly, it was a moment of realization of how completely my priorities have changed thinking about how I use my time, not only for the climb but also the commitment it would take me to get in shape to climb again.
But most of all, it made me feel yet again the wonderful work of our friends as they hold space for us when we are otherwise occupied, off on our quests to find meaning or just not feeling ourselves. Those friends that we can journey through all the phases of life and still find something to talk about with are a sacred gift.
So I told my friend, with a huge heaping of gratitude, that I’d have to take a rain check until I get my kids in shape and we can all climb together. In lieu of me going, his son is going to borrow my backpack and ice axe so a little bit of me is going by proxy instead. Maybe I’ll get to send my tin cup also so it can have dinner on the mountain too!
(photo is mine – of sunset from base camp on Mt. Adams)