A gentle ember rose amidst the surrounding cliffs. It was past 5 am just outside of Red Rock Canyon, Nevada, and we emerged from our tents focused on the ensuing climb.
Nothing disturbed the serenity, not even the voices of other rising climbers. The moment was impenetrable, the calmness frozen into the morning air.
Things stayed this way for quite some time. My climbing partner for the day, Rett, jet-boiled water and added it to oatmeal and coffee grinds. We drove into the canyon. We took a last oh-so-precious stop in the porter next to the trailhead. And then we hiked the long but magnificent approach to the base of Levitation 29, our looming challenge of the day. Through it all, serenity remained.
Forecast: 68 and sunny.
Jacket: still in the car.
I believed it would only get warmer. And more importantly, I embraced the idea that the morning calm would last the day.
I was wrong.
Each pitch of the climb took us higher into the whipping wind. Apparently, Red Rock Canyon is known for causing chapped lips, but the wind became a larger issue than dry skin.
Because of my idiotic choice to leave the jacket behind, my discomfort developed into a more prevailing concern. What was once a mild shiver steadily formed into a more and more violent shake.
The wind was becoming so incessant that I forgot the morning tranquility. Calmness was gone. Painful, howling chaos was all I breathed in. I even no longer noticed the incredible journey of the climb I was on, making each move brainlessly, distracted by the gales that imprisoned my attention.
I was cold. To be honest, I was miserable – a descriptor I have never before used on a climb.
Uncomfortable, missing out on the climb, and even unable to effectively communicate with Rett on the route, it became clear:
The wind tyrannically ruled the day.
But delicately tucked within these grueling hours of climbing, were a few distinct, beloved moments on the rock. Their brevity made them no less adored.
In these cherished seconds, for when the wind would cease, warmth was restored, the glorious views of the canyon faded into my vision, I could properly call commands to my climbing partner, and overall, life would return with vivacious color. I was taught a lesson in this.
Chaos, noise, and discomforts – we so often bring them upon ourselves.
Whether we choose to leave behind our jacket, fill our iCalendars to the brim with meetings and projects, keep the television playing in our homes for the entirety of a day, or constantly place ourselves in the public to feel less alone, we are deciding each day to besiege ourselves with loud, distracting, and ultimately harmful winds.
Sadly, we get so caught up in progress, that unnecessary clamor becomes the norm. We don’t even notice the destructive behavior of our busy-ness anymore.
I am grateful for the rest, for the shelter from the wind that consumed my attention on Levitation 29. The quiet gave me a new appreciation for stillness.
But I now wonder how often I become voluntarily captive to other winds of the world. And I wonder – what serenity am I missing because of their howl.
Founder of The Network 5.12
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