The rock was at once sharp and slippery on my clammy hands and my breath puffed out in little jets as I worked to maintain control of my mind and my body. I was working on the “Monkey Traverse” on Flagstaff Road in Boulder, a bouldering problem perfectly designed (by…Mother Earth?) for a climber like me- someone for whom her total number hours spent bouldering in the outdoors totals to about three. I also had not practiced climbing for about a month, and so was still just getting back into the swing of things. Believe me, this little bouldering problem was a big monster from the get-go.
I had just finished my second day on my new summer job teaching naturalism to kiddos at day camp and I was just plain tuckered out. Those little ones ran me just as ragged as I did them, and the hot, five o’clock sun that burned high in the sky (the solstice is coming! the solstice is coming!) (read the latter in a Chicken Little voice) was still sapping me of the little energy and hydration I had left.
Still, Michelle and I were out there, throwing ourselves at the rock (or, in Michelle’s case, gliding gracefully across the rock) for the sake of doing it. After about four tries, I still had failed to cross the first tricky section of the traverse. I was thinking that I might as well just give it one more try, but I did not expect myself to get it. Instead of moving right into it, we decided to take a break, sit in the shade and just chat for a bit. A few other folks showed up. We watched them. The strain faded from my forearms. I tried again, and successfully crossed my first little crux.
I was stymied by the next crux immediately, but I had made progress in a relative short amount of time. Michelle and I sat a bit later, shaded now by the hill that blocked the setting sun, listening to the spring birds’ cries, and the crickets’ chirps. The air was still, and just a little cool. The heat held by the rocks underneath us radiated warmth. The tired haze that had clouded my head after work was gone, and I felt that I could look around me with clarity again.
I thought of the winter that was with us just a short while ago, how grey, brown, and yellow everything at been. Metallic and beautiful, but cold. I thought of the sooner-than-we-realized coming autumn months of yellow extremes and dryness. Now, all is lush, green and blooming. The streams are swollen to overflowing in this lush, lusty springtime. In these few days, everything is remarkably comfortable. Everything is new again. It’s easy to take these days for granted. They are so comfortable that they glide by without notice.
Driving back down to the city, I realized all of this. I turned to Michelle and asked, “These are the days to be appreciated, aren’t they?” She agreed heartily. It’s a good thing that appreciation is easy. Go outside. Look around. Take a breath, and let it out.