I’ve gotten soft. I have proof. But let’s talk about the weather.
Yes, we’re spoiled here in Colorado, where we’re so accustomed to sunshine that after a couple of consecutive rainy days we grumble, “Might as well move to Seattle with this bullshit.” But now, seriously, for weeks the weather has been better in Seattle. Here in the ‘Rado (brah), it’s snowing, alternating with sleet, as I type this.
Which leads to my said sad softness, which isn’t exactly breaking news. It does, however, allow me to feel better about myself for my love of climbing indoors (on well-set gym routes, anyway) and going for walks (in the rain, lately). I laugh when I imagine the look of abject disgust on the face of my younger self at hearing those words. I remember going for a walk at Lumpy once about fifteen years ago, just to clear my head a bit. It was a rare occasion. On the trail, two of my buddies walked past after their day of climbing, and muttered only an awkward, “Hey Kelly.” They looked confused. When I saw them in the bar that evening, they asked what I was doing. Just going for a nice walk, I said. One of them paused, again looking puzzled. “But you don’t have a girlfriend.”
Anyway, ankle fusion rules, I highly recommend it. I walk for an hour or more on most days, marveling at the simple joy of walking without my bones grating together, and I’ve climbed some longer routes outside without pain. It’s amazing. Maybe I’ll post some photos and an ankle update soon. I’ve got a sweet drink recipe I’ve been meaning to post, though, and I’ll do that first. Tomorrow. Before I climb in the gym.
Maybe this aging-softness thing is all about a state of mind. About being OK with one’s self. It’s a show of growth, of acceptance, yes, passive acceptance as we circle the drain, life’s steady drubbing leaving us alone with no hopes, no dreams. Ahem. I mean, it’s OK if you’re that kind of person, anyway. (And apparently I am.) Pass the Doritos, namaste.
In the gym the other day, my friend commented on my glove. Yes, as further proof of said sad decline I use a belay glove. It’s nicer on the hands (see opening sentence). Ya know, don’t want to muss my manicure. When she smirked and said “nice glove,” naturally my mind went to Spinal Tap. You know, their album Smell the Glove, and What’s wrong with being sexy? SexIST! Yes, the shack days never die, and it’s true that we boys communicate primarily through movie lines. Then I looked down and thought about that ratty old glove.
I don’t get sentimental about clothing, like a special stinky Capilene worn on this or that climb or whatever. I had the experiences I had, and with this glove I’d ripped out the liner and cut off the fingers. But standing there in the gym I chuckled to myself as, for the first time, I thought about the experiences I’d had with this tattered piece of leather. My mind drifted. Breaking into the kitchen atop the Aiguille du Midi with Jonny Copp, before getting busted and being banished to the bathroom bivy; our terrible epic on the north face of Les Droites in winter; our new route, Going Monk (Zoolander fans take note), in Alaska; Jim Earl and I surviving hallucinations, a whipper off the summit, and Jim’s pulmonary edema, with a descent neither of us fully remember in our exhausted states, after putting up a new route in Peru.
These days I dream less about the mountains, though their pull and their enchantment never dies. Sometimes I think how I might like to grow old if I can remain active, can continue doing the things I love.
In the gym that day, it was only for a moment that I paused to stare at my gloved hand. But nostalgia moved through me, feelings of different times and places in my life, many with Jonny. The sweet sorrow of missing somebody rose and then drifted away, even as it stays with me always, and I put my friend on belay for more plastic pulling fun. As I did, for only a moment I thought that this ragged glove is still holding on, I guess, just like the rest of us.