Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A Letter To My Rock Climbing Shoes

"Life is an adventure, dare it."   -- Mother Teresa
My climbing shoes are hung up, but only for this photo opp. :)

Dear Climbing Shoes,

I apologize.  I know you are disappointed that you didn’t see more action at the City of Rocks this past weekend.  I know you’d been planning for months on me lacing you up to see Rachel lead climb in a ball gown.  The reality is that although you were raring to go, I was in no shape to push my limits. 

I laid awake and cried Sunday night when I got home.  I wish I wasn’t so emotional, and I’m really happy for Rachel, but it would’ve been great if you and I would’ve been celebrating at the top with her. 
It’s really not cool to make excuses, but my messed up knee, heel, and shoulder have collectively made our times together less frequent lately.  And I wish it wasn’t so, but I’m way weaker than I was a couple months ago.  I’m still in physical therapy, for Pete’s sake.

Please know that when we’re not together I miss you terribly.  I miss pulling you out of my gym bag, having you fit my foot like a glove, and lacing your sea foam green laces.  I miss the way my feet feel when I wear you, kinda like I’m a munchkin in the Wizard of Oz.  And oh how I miss the sculpted way my arms and legs feel on the day after you and I spend time together.

When I climbed on Saturday, I realized how much I’ve longed to feel your grippy black soles.  I did the City, not in the glorious fashion I’d hoped, but I was determined that you were going to rock at least one or two routes. And you did! You held me tight and we got me to the top.  Twice.  Nothing to write home about, but tough darts.  If I've learned anything, it's that not all climbing days are created equal.

I was lucky to have great friends Steve and Heather standing at the base.  They have seen me at my best, climbing 5.10 routes.  They knew you and I still had it going on.  They shouted to me from the base to persist.  “You can do this, Susi,” Steve said at least 100 times.  Steve is one of the classiest men I know.  He and Heather gave me some great hints as you and I sauntered gingerly up the mountain together in the blazing afternoon sun.  And Heather, who looks like a ballerina on rock when she climbs, kept saying how happy she was for me after I rappelled back to earth.

Remember the morning, some months ago at the climbing gym, when I compared muscles with my friend Amy and vowed I was going to climb til I became a very old woman?  That’s still what I want.  No, I won’t be wearing you in the Olympics.  And I don’t see El Capitan in our future.  You have to realize, my beloved shoes, that I started climbing at an age when my grandma spent her days baking sugar cookies and riding a three-wheeled yellow bicycle through her desert retirement community.  I'd lost my edge before I ever started.  But rest assured, I still treasure our times together, racing to the climbing gym or trail head after work and pulling you out of my bag for another run up a mountain.

Like any relationship, we’ve had our ups and downs.  I remember how much I hated you when that kind gentleman at REI first introduced us.  You made my feet hurt like hell.  Pretty sad that you’d hurt me so bad at the beginning of our relationship!  But since then, we have bonded in a way that’s just perfect.  We haven’t spent much time together lately, and we both know "things" have suffered as a result.  You know the reasons … including the ones I’ve uttered only in hushed tones.  But I didn’t leave you, nor will I. If I go, you’re going with me.  I’m taking you to NYC (yes, I’m a bit of a sugar mama, but indulge me, will you?) and we can climb in Manhattan.  How many of your friends can say that??? And when we come back, we’re going to spend even more time together.  We’re in this for the long haul, you and I.  I promise.

Love, Susi

(Photos courtesy of Heather Watson Bridge and friends)

City of Rocks, Idaho
At the base of the route
A slow but secure start at the base.

Climbing photography is all about the arse shots. Ugh.
Ahhhh the top.
Heather, an amazing climber, a talented photographer, and a great friend.
Steve rappels down after nailing his climb.
Rachel, lead climbing City of Rocks in a ball gown.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Watching Venus Walk Across the Sun

"Have you looked outside?" a more-than-skeptical text flashed onto my phone.  To the east, clouds crashed on the Wasatch mountains, a scene I normally relish.  But Tuesday evening was my one chance in the next 121 years to see Venus pass across the sun, and no cloud was welcome.  The sky to the west looked less ominous, but by no means clear.

"Accu-weather says it will be clear by 8 pm, and the wind is blowing gusts of up to 60 miles per hour so the clouds are gonna get blown outta here," I retorted back.  "I'll let you know when I leave the office," I advised.

At just after 5:30 pm, I headed for Harmons Brickyard, where an unknown community group was reportedly gathering for Venus viewing.  My friend Joe, who'd bought our solar viewing sunglasses at lunchtime, beat me to the gathering of five or so telescope owners from the Salt Lake Astronomical Society.

The clouds over the Oquirrh Mountains to the west of the Salt Lake Valley were thick.  And although I'd left the house on what was a summery morning, by noon it was chilly, and by the time I got to Brickyard, it was downright cold.  We sat in the car and chatted with each other and everyone who called while we waited.  We intermittently tried on our glasses, but all we could see was a reflection of our eyeballs. 
This shot of Venus crossing the sun was taken from my hometown, Tempe, Arizona, by Stephen Rector

Every inch of progress at thinning the cloud cover was duly noted and cheered as the "prime viewing time" 7:25 pm MDT drew ever closer. As the clouds thinned, the crowd thickened and our princess parking spot was eclipsed by a lady with an SUV who blocked our view of the telescopes and the western sky.  Easy enough, we moved to a location that had been previously barricaded with yellow tape.  This was "okay," mainly because the wind had blown down the tape and we could drive right onto the closest parking spot to the Venus viewing area.

The clouds continued to move eastward but also to the north, revealing strips of bright blue sky and a million rays of splintered light that fanned to the Earth.  It was 7:20 pm and the sun was still covered.  Finally, about 7:40 pm, we saw a piece of the sun and tried out our solar viewing glasses.  Too cool.

I wrapped myself in my ex-bf's blanket (there are some things about a failed relationship that are worth hanging onto and that blanket is one of them).  We headed towards one of the huge telescopes set up in the Harmons parking lot and were among the first in line to get a peek at Venus making her way across the sun.

We did a bit of telescope hopping as the crowd grew.  It was sort of like trick or treating, only without candy or a costume.  Each 'scope yielded a slightly different view of a tiny black speck moving gingerly across the Sun.

For a few scintillating moments, I felt like I danced on the Sun, even from a distance millions of miles away.  It was indeed chilling, and not because of the cold wind whipping on my bare legs.  Seeing the wonders of nature reminds us that we are but a mere blip in the Universe, and we ought not to take ourselves or life too seriously.