Ready: New Day, New Year

Past, present, future. We never know the future, of course, and we strive to enjoy and appreciate the present. The present that soon becomes our past.

We are all dying. Day by day, we inch or catapult closer. How much, we don’t know, which only underscores the importance of now, each moment, each day, day by day.

I’m not big on celebrations. I don’t really even like my birthday, for some reason. And I dislike Christmas, not because I’m an atheist (which I am), but because of what it has come to represent. To those who believe in the meaning of the holiday: respect. To those for whom it becomes a time of stress and materialism, I find it gross. And New Year’s, too – not my favorite, because, really, it’s just another day. Not a day to convince yourself that this year, unlike the X-number of years past, you will magically, somehow, muster the motivation you inherently lack to do something you proclaim to be important. No, if it were important, the superficies of a random day’s resolution won’t make you do it. It won’t. You’ll do it if it’s important to you, January 1 – or November 13, or March 4, or whatever – be damned.

One thing I love about the holidays, though, is the time off. I love how people use it as a time to do what we should all probably do more: work less, play more, and appreciate the things that make today – what will soon be yesterday – worthwhile. Worth living.

At the end of each year we get some cool lists. I generally dislike lists, too. Surprise, surprise, I know. Fair enough to wonder: what don’t I dislike? Hard to say. But generally, I dislike things that are stupid and fake. I like things that are real.

The year-end “Best Of” compilations of the arts give me great enjoyment via a nearly endless stockpile of engaging reads, viewings and audio.

The best audio I heard in 2012, or perhaps in my life, was Terry Gross’s interview with author Maurice Sendak. Sendak was born to Polish immigrants, and most of his extended family died in the Holocaust. He grew up to become a celebrated author, winning the National Book Award (among many accolades), writing and/or illustrating over 100 books, primarily children’s books, which often had a dark edge as real as life. Brilliant and real. His best-known work was Where the Wild Things Are.

The piece aired on May 8, 2012 – the day of his death – and it still makes me cry when I listen. Sendak was near the end of his life, he knew that his circle was closing, and his voice and his words conveyed a depth and a poignance and, above all, a beauty that eloquently encapsulates the time that we have. He speaks of life, its futility and its wholeness, its meaning and not, the reality of death and his mind as an artist.

Here is the link to the full audio piece (you can download it there, too, for later listening). Embedded here:

Here, and embedded below, is a brief and beautiful illustrated video that an artist named Christoph Niemann produced with short clips from the audio.

All the best for today, 2013, and every day. When our time comes, perhaps we can speak like Sendak:

“I have nothing now but praise for my life. I’m not unhappy. I cry a lot because I miss people. They die and I can’t stop them. They leave me and I love them more. … What I dread is the isolation. … There are so many beautiful things in the world which I will have to leave when I die, but I’m ready, I’m ready, I’m ready.”


The Penguin (handwarming tip for winter climbing)

Do you hate ice climbing? Yes, yes! It’s scary and stupid and cold, you guys. Oh, but wait! Once your fingers are warm, it’s all puppy dogs and rainbows out there.

Been meaning to post this simple, effective tip. I remembered it yesterday, when, instead of being in the rock gym, for some stupid reason we climbed outside. It was six degrees.

Cold fingers are cold and miserable, so we often wear thicker gloves, which makes fumbling with a gear a major pain and is more pumpy. Can feel like you added a full difficulty grade to the climb. I rarely lead with thick gloves, btw – even in the cold – here’s a post for those with cold hands and glove dilemmas. And here’s something I wrote awhile back on Patagonia’s blog, with some tips for dressing for winter climbing.

Climbers practice a variety of techniques to warm the hands, and possibly offset the onset of the dreaded Screaming Barfies (the perfectly descriptive term for when your hands – or toes, whew, that one really sucks – get frigid and then re-warm). Some things are obvious, like keeping your belay parka on for as long as possible (a post on that here), bringing a hot thermos to the crag, shoveling-down calories, or saying “fuck this” and going home to drink booze.

Active techniques include the well-known Speedskater, and my personal favorite, the lesser-known Penguin. Whereas the Speedskater is easy to perform, it carries the risk of throwing you off balance, which can lead to your cruel and untimely death, and it requires space – won’t work at hanging belays, for example. The Penguin, on the other hand, is technique-intensive (including the facial expressions, of course), but it’s worth it. Don’t know how it works, but it does. For me, it’s a magical instant handwarmer. I’m dead serious. Got my technique down and everything – which is more than can be said for my video editing skills. Anyway, it helps make ice climbing less miserable and more fun. I hope it helps, and feel free to post-up any good tips you have.