Preface: I had some inspiration to write this next piece while still in the Buttermilks but didn’t finish writing it until I saw a comment posted in the Iron Man picture (a famous boulder problem) from one of my earlier posts. The comment was from Daniel Davis, an old college friend, close to me like a brother, someone I went to Bishop with my first two spring breaks at university, someone who taught me how to climb. Being the hermit and bad friend one can become after a divorce, I haven’t spoken to Dan in ages and reading his comment, knowing he was out there reading my present interpretation of a old familiar place encouraged me to complete the following words.
I woke in the night, tossing and turning, my attention held captive by my unconscious. I had a terrible dream that Allison (my current road trip companion and long time friend) and I were free soloing in doors and she fell from 20 or 30 feet. I was horrified and worst of all I had to down climb without loosing my footing to get to her, to see if she was alright. I woke to a dark night and felt the adrenaline that accompanies not knowing if your thoughts are reality.
I felt the dehydration of tears that had fallen earlier. In re-visiting Bishop, the birth place of my mediocre (at best) climbing career and less than par relationship with my longtime best friend and ex-husband I hadn’t anticipated experiencing any difficulty. As usual, this was an enormous oversight, a gross underestimation of the consequences and associated emotions of the ending of an era. Driving up the long road to dispersed camping among creamy, well-rounded ancient boulders, the Buttermilks tore at my heart strings. With each mile my emotions rose and soon I couldn’t tell if I was experiencing nostalgia, excitement for a road trip, or guilt for a marriage dissolved.
After we set up the tent (no fly so we’d be able see the stars through the inner wall mesh), put on suitable clothes and started looking to poach a fire and it’s typical company, I realized how sore I was from my loss and the tears began to well. Pools of fire water pushed themselves past the damns labeled “social constructs” and I experienced a kind of solace one can only enjoy during a good cry. Allison was kind enough to sit with me on a rock and listen while I cleansed my palate of all the traumas, of the marriage and every relationship sense. By the end of this spell I felt more ready to accept the after math of ten years since first visiting Bishop and all that had gone on in between, though, as a scientist, my heart still struggled for a context. Why and what was it all for?
Pulling myself together, tears expelled, we found the company we sought, but no fire. We had a chat to some bright eyed and bushy tailed teen-aged climbers. Regaling us with stories that could have been our own ten years ago, we listened while they excitedly told of their plans to take a semester off to climb, build climbing walls in their garages, eat beans and rice every night for supper, ect. The younger one complained from all the sediment the older one somehow included in the evenings’ stew, spatting bits here and there. Allison and I laughed great belly laughs. The younger one told us of his dream to hike the Appalachian trail and then keep going to New Orleans where he wanted to volunteer and work. Listening to his goals and passion for life sparked a fire in me. I was comforted by the passing of a figurative torch, to the new generation of dirt bag climbers.
Falling back asleep after my night mear, half dreaming and half grasping for reality, I had a vision which granted the context my heart desired. Here surrounded by the Sierras I thought of their source, deep below the surface where I laid. A magma chamber, like a naive idealistic college student, is not yet hardened. Possibilities and potential fluid like molten rock. Variables like temperature, pressure, and composition influencing the final form the chambers rock will have. Fast forward to present day. What remains of that impressionable chamber are massive mountains on the skyline and glacial erratics purged from below the surface and strewn across the landscape . Bits, like memories of my climbing youth, peaking out of the soil here and there, distributed like landmines. And every time I happen upon one, I don’t know if I will stop and admire the crystals or trip because I didn’t see it coming. And the history in between, how fluid enveloped in the earth came to be solid, exposed, and weathered… The roll of endothermic cooling, uplift, glaciation, and exfoliation. Process after process this granite has endured to inhabit this present place, well rounded shards in the valley below and grand standing jagged scars in the distance. I saw the cyclisity of igneous rocks as a parallel for my story, my history and felt the comfort of an inorganic friend who understood. The time between college and now is part of my history, and it will reveal it self now and then, memories, familiar rock, but the story isn’t over either. The boulders surrounding my slumber were still being shaped even if they weren’t molten any more, even if we couldn’t cognitively observe it on a human time scale, the cycle continued. My ex-husband once said I was the only person he knew who could possibly love granite as much as he…
There, back awake when many aren’t, listless loneliness is usually the first emotion I feel. But it was different this time, with my new igneous outlook. I had admitted to Allison how hurt and confused I was about how I had gotten to this place in my life. I had accepted her consoling and moved on with my evening. What a break through. It may not seem profound, but for someone who spends 90% of their free time alone, lives alone, travels alone, and recreates largely alone, accepting someones invitation to witness your vulnerable break down is no small feet. Then, to enjoy the rest of the evening without wallowing, one small step for man, one giant leap for Krystal. I considered her presence a luxury and reconsidered my position on loneliness.
Being out of a draining, deteriorating, and done marriage has left me free to discover the company of all that surrounds me. With the stars, the distant and sporadic calls of an owl, the well-rounded ancient igneous shadows cradling our tent, the rhythmic exhalations of my best friend lying next to me my attention was no longer held captive by dreams or the past. When I realized all the company I kept in this moment, a calming gratitude settled in my heart. If an era was ending, a new one was beginning. We all had a history, and for tonight, all our stories intersected. Everything wasn’t going to be perfect in this post divorce purgatory were I found myself, I may trip on nostalgia and guilt every now and then, but I certainly wasn’t alone. It mightn’t be what I had in mind, but I was grateful and finally understood what it was all for. I’m sure the mountains long for the comfort of the warm earthen chamber from where they came, from time to time too.