I thought I'd share this. I'm hesitant to show my photos to people because I feel like it's pretentious. But I thought folks might appreciate these. This was two days ago. I went for this hike on the coast and came to this point far out on a peninsula. And the waves were just HUGE. So I shot this sequence on rapid fire, and I thought it showed the power of nature pretty well. It was cool to see the tourists scurrying too! It makes me happy when nature shows she is stronger than all our human silliness sometimes.
These images were shot during our climbing camp in late-July in the Wind River Mountains. We had just moved into the cirque to the west of Gannett Peak and were welcomed by very unsettled weather. Every day we would head up to the rock climbing area early, learning skills like setting pro, rappelling and, of course, sending the gnar. In the afternoon the storms would invariably hit, sending us scattering back to camp. And every spectacular evening I would grab my camera, as clouds and rain billowed across the valley to our north, , and the sun raged to the west, hoping to capture a bit of the spectacle. Here are a few images from this magical place.
Rise. The day begins. The sun burns. Behind the cast of grey. Today we flame. Today we smile. The beat, the pulse. It tremors, it quivers. Do you feel the thrill? I do, I do. The lungs filled as we climb. The soul exploded as we descend through the silky cast of white. It's a new day, It's a new dawn (to borrow from Miss Nina Simone). It's time to rage. It's time. To dance. In the mountains and cliffs and peaks that are ours. Relentless optimism. Relentless wave of good. I believe in a future. Of beauty. I believe that dreams – all dreams – can and will come true. The race, it begins anew today. Nothing. Else. Will. Suffice. Rage young warrior. Go to the mountain. Fly. This is what we do. Now. Do it well. Smile. Dance. Move. Flow.
I have the ability to change – and make better – the world through…passion. So I will.
What to do on the night of a full moon? To sit, inside, huddled in our cocoons, safe, waiting for warmth, comfortable. Hesitation. Is this really a practical idea? Absolutely not. And therein lies the beauty. The temperature is sub-zero. The wind is howling. Particles of air, frozen in stillness and then whirled into motion like a blender chopping up cucumbers, spitting them into the air, disintegrating them into smithereens. There is energy in fire. There is energy in this life.
We are not the norm. We are not the mundane. You will not find us in office buildings, nor will we fall to your expected outcome. You bore us with your expectations. Because we will be so much more. Tonight, a pagan night. We burn. We send fire into the chill. We laugh more than you will ever laugh. The pulse, the heart beat, the youth. Never ever go. Memory. Don't die. Burn.
Fire. Cheeks burn. Wind pounds. Galaxies blaze, moons becon. Glow, glow, glow. It's chaos. The sledding is…wretched. The air – toes gone. And yet – we smile. We shake our heads in absurdity. These are the moments. I wonder if my young companions realize…how…unique…this…is. How can they? They have not lived through the mundane – well, in part they have…after all they have survived high school. But it's a different perspective. If nothing else, I hope to show them that there are other ways to live. And I mean – to live. As in, being alive. Most are not. A pitiful fate.
The best part of being cold – you know you are alive. When your cheeks burn and your extremities ache – you know…you..are…beating. You glow. The second best part? Warming up again. The fire next to you. The comfort. In life, you have to suffer a little to feel reward. Or, as the man in jail said – you have to lose everything to know how sweet it is to win it all back.
Tonight, we burn.
I sit here at 5:38 am. At 5:38 am on December 6, the world is dark out. I lie under my blanket, a thick Norwegian hand-me down given to me by my mother, covered tight to prevent the chill of the sub-zero night from permeating too deep inside. The caboose I live in has zero insulation, so despite the fact that there was a roaring fire at midnight, at this moment – pre-dawn – the room is icy cold. Sweatshirts are mandatory fare, as are long pajama pants and socks. This is the life I have chosen.
I can't sleep. Need some sort of music. I'm bored with everything I have. I tune into Pandora – Sigur Ros channel. Dreamy music that lets the listener escape reality, like one of those moments when the snow falls and the sun glistens through it, shimmering like angels dancing on the moon.
I'm scared. I won't lie. I'm conflicted. Sure, I can portray an image of strength, of forward thinking but I'm not sure you can go through everything I have faced the past five months and not be scared. It haunts you. A life turned upside down, with no chance for discussion or defense, only accusation. I'm over that part of it. Somewhat. It was the expected path, and while I'm not thrilled with the results and the hardship, I'm not afraid of the future. Well, not really at least. I suppose…I don't know really.
I sink into depths sometimes. More than you might expect. Today was a rough day. For no particular reason either. You miss people, you miss…elements…and you realize that things will never ever be the same. But do you regret it? Well, that's a tough one. You regret the pain caused, both to self and others, but to go back to that world – you know that would never work either.
DONE. It's time to move on. For there is beauty. I have, for better or for worse, chosen the path less traveled. I read the blogs, I see my old life, my friends writing for VeloNews, running bike shops, having kids, and I think to myself…that could have been me. But instead, I have chosen the life of a nomad. My week will be spent searching through the hills for the perfect powder turn, while at the same time trying to scrape by an existence through writing, photography, being a barista and cleaning out horse troughs and building fences on a cold winter day. Until spring and summer. Just holding out till then, to do what I was meant to do. To roam the hills.
I have chosen to stay here. To stay in my hometown. To not run. Some things need to be faced head-on. Some pain you can't make go away – it needs to be dealt with and you can only run for so long. I'm a nomad by nature, but this is one challenge I need to face. This is, as my friend Dave said, one of those moments where we get to redefine our lives. We're only handed one or two of these in our existence, and this is clearly one for me.
I stand behind my principles. I believe in the power of love and believe in friendship (and more than ever, family). I think…maybe I don't know.
I do know this. It's snowing outside. Not a lot, not nearly what I had hoped for, but it's something. A fresh blanket. I think I will ski tomorrow. In fact, I know I will. And I will take an old friend. Maybe more than one. An introduction to a new world, a reminder of an old one. Hmmm…maybe that's where I am. At a crossroads between old and new. A side of me holding onto the past, because there was wonder there. And then another side, ready to attack the future.
I went for a ski last night. My first nordic ski at the area that I used to – and will one day again – rule. I am good at this activity. One of the best I will say, and not in an arrogant way. I should be after all – I've done it for a long time. And even now, with the absence, I flow. Fly up and down the hills. Balance is a little bit off for sure, but these are minor details that 20 – 50 km of skiing will cure. When I am on a pair of skis, in the woods, on the top of a mountain, I am at my best. There are moments where I am a godlike – not the god – but above the mundane. These are the moments I seek, the moments I live for. They are the thunder crashing on the side of the hill, the rain pelting my skin, the storm that tries to beat me down. I stand strong.
In the meantime, I adapt. I figure out alternatives. Don't go to the grocery store during peak hours. Don't ski the area on the weekend. Pick your time, pick your place. As the Ranger from the West did in Lord of the Rings – hide out until the climate is more friendly. Not stop – just be wiser in your approach.
I need to write more. I need to write every single day. And I will, or at least I will say I will and then I will not. But I do promise to live, even if the hardship of life rips at me. Because, as I have found, there is light in all darkness. Disappear temporarily, but not forever and get really, really fucking strong, to the point where I can survive it all, and reach a new level of…YES.