What’s wrong with enjoying life? I ask myself to make myself feel better. What’s terrible about starting over? I think, as my hand wanders aimlessly to my left hip and I finger the trigger of a piece of gear hanging there, the action both familiar and soothing. This is my first winter spent climbing in the southeast. Normally, I would be found cutting tools into frozen cascades in the northeast, but instead, I took a chance by quitting my job and leaving home.

I begin to ditch layers of clothing to welcome each little ray of sun on my skin. It’s a breath of fresh air; I embrace the change.

Twall. Photograph by Nick Lanphier

I’ve never stood beneath this climb before, and the overhang above intimidates the hell out of me, but as I squeeze my cam’s trigger gently, the motion puts me at ease. I place my hand on the slab of rock, expecting it to be an ice box, but instead, warmth radiates from it. Moving gradually in inches at first, and then a half a foot and then another, I feel my body bend, my bones and flesh rearranging themselves to fit inside the crack. I’m forming a new cocoon.

I don’t just break through the chrysalis I’ve been building for myself over the past several months; I shatter, split and burst (suddenly and violently). I do it in a single motion as I step up high with my foot, placing it along the tiniest rimple I can find.

This is where I have to launch off because the crack continues on and every ounce of power I have left within me is needed. My legs stem across from one another, finding delicate grooves to perch upon. My back is arched and jutting out. The rock is scented; its soft brown color is an aromatic spice.

Only on Earth, only in Tennessee. Photograph by Nick Lanphier

I know the direction I’m moving, and somehow this time it isn’t about the upward movement so much as the forward motion. You can always come back, I’ve been told. The job of traveling is to let go of our attachments. Letting go of expectations of what is to come is necessary in order to see the true gifts life has to offer.

Don’t think; move! I tell myself this over and over again as I swim through the sweet, smooth chasm, arms beginning to burn. Remember that it’s your body and mind moving together. Remember that it’s not the fall will kill you; it’s the sudden stop at the end. I am convinced that, somehow, gravity won’t catch up to me if I never stop moving.

The movement is slow and listless. It feels insecure the entire way. It seems terrible to hold onto something that is forcing me to let go.

Everybody starts from the same place. Photograph by Nick Lanphier

I left New York City in a pursuit of a life where serendipity meets deliberation. For every day that I have been away from what I called home for four years, I feel a greater affection for creating makeshift beds everywhere I go.

The point of life is to find something that you’re deeply passionate about because as frightening as it seems to wander off the beaten path alone, you start to see that everybody has their own pace they prefer to climb at and experience life by. You begin to find your own. At the end of the day, and at the end of my climb, it doesn’t really matter if I make it to the top or not. The point is that I’m willing to start, from the ground up.

8 thoughts

  1. Right around now, every year, I start to think about leaving my rainy city for sunny places and warm rock. I think maybe next year, I’ll be able to make that happen. Nothing terrible about starting over 🙂 Thanks for this.

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