I reached for the edge of a hole in the face of the rock, a hollow worn into the sandstone over decades of rain and wind. It was the perfect hold, a bulky edge I could wrap my shaking fingers around. After several vertical meters of forcing my sore fingertips into only tiny grooves and narrow cracks, I was relieved to be able to lean back in a stable position. I reached behind my back and dug in my chalk bag, coating my fingers as I looked up, scanning the rock for my next move.
A breeze snaked down into the gully below me where my husband stood at the other end of my rope, his able hands relaxed but poised at the belay. I smeared the toe of my right climbing shoe against the rock to get a better grip and rotated my shoulders to glance down at him. His hair ruffled in the wind.
"Looks good, honey," he called up to me. Behind him, our friends Jeff and Amy prepared for the next climb.
The route had started as an easy, even 5.7 lie-back. Sandstone is notoriously slippery, but this corner of the park was heavily shaded by pines, oaks and madrones, their trunks veiled by a tangle of green and gray lichen. In the shade, our dry fingers and palms caught even the smaller holds easily.
Higher up, sunlight found its way through the canopy and baked the rock face. It reverberated brightly under our bellies and forearms, pulled sweat to the surface of our skin so that we had to wipe our hands against our shorts and shirts before making the next move. The glare made it hard to see the chalk echoes where other climbers had marked the way.
I turned my focus back to the climb and muscled my way up, making the most of the big hold. I pulled myself over the edge of the hole in the rock and discovered a cavern, dark and deep, much larger than I'd expected.
Budget Rental Vans squat curbside on the street. College boys with sinewy arms and authoritative expressions hoist their hastily labeled boxes up and into efficient stacks. They are leaving. They are through with this college town. New places and new challenges await them elsewhere. I know not the distance any of them will travel in the coming days, but it is clear that changes are afoot, and each young man is looking forward to a change.
I walk. I know that I do, but I can't hear the sound of my steps on the crumpled brick path. I cannot hear anything except my own breathing, shallow and strange.
A moment ago, I exited a beautiful Georgian inn after two hours of critique, the last one dedicated to me. My writing lacks intent.
I've been thinking about this for three days. Without a doubt, it's true. My writings about my travels have been journal entries. That's all. Flowering, verbose journal entries that are pinpricked by subtle humor only recognizable to those who know me and can hear my voice reading them. Not funny. Not deep. Not unique.
It's taken three days of hard thought, notes on scraps of paper, restless sleep, and an entire package of Keebler Fudge Stripe cookies to figure out why that's true.
When I write without intent, it is because I have lived without intent.
The things I care about in advance, sweat over and fight for, those things I have written about well. When it furthers the cause of my life, I treat the writing of an event or insight with deference. I select my words; I conserve my energy.
Many times, I sit down to write for the sake of writing. Worse--I sit down to write because I feel that I must, because I haven't done it in ages, because I don't feel the call, because I'm avoiding it, because writing is hard. And the reason writing is hard is that it forces us to answer questions we don't want to admit we hear, questions that we are ashamed to admit we know the answers to.
Heretofore, this blog has served multiple purposes. It has given me an avenue for my writing, allowing me to keep my hand in the craft whenever possible. It has been a platform for sharing my experiences in life with my closest family and friends. And it has allowed me to argue my opinions and strive for my ideals.
It has not been entirely honest.
I sugarcoat my life. My stories shared are edited, you might even say censored. This is the virtual world I can manipulate at my whim. What you see is a young woman who prioritizes her writing and states her arguments succinctly, shares the tales of her travels. I know that because it's what I've opted to show you.