reflections on a year of rock climbing

I remember the first time I got on the rock,
sunny, sweaty hands trembling, stomach lurching

On a warm August day in Penitente Canyon, junipers and scrub oak line the trails where the spring snow had melted

My new friends and I make our way to the climb with the deep huecos

There,
with the comfort of a top rope,
I fall, and I struggle, and I pant,
kick and curse
and it’s the most imperfect journey to the top of the rock

As joyful as I feel to have reached the top,
I tell myself I need to get stronger
that I could have done it more flawlessly

I cast my eyes downward, feeling shame in my weakness
——————-
Fast forward a year later
new friends have become old and we drive the dusty road to the canyon every chance we get
Colorado monsoon season means we get stuck in the rain once or twice
but there is one afternoon that
I remember so clearly

We make our way to the climb with the deep huecos
and I decide that I am going to lead the route
because by this time,
it has imprinted itself into my memory

I am sweaty and nervous and fear outlines my vision
because I could fall a dozen feet

but I have done this route so many times and
each bolt I clip into is a reminder of my strength and ability
to navigate through fear
by staring it in the face
and climbing up it

I struggle, and I pant
and I kick and curse all the way to the top
and it’s an imperfect journey

but this time, the joy I feel at the top is not eclipsed by
the desire for the flawless strength I think I should have

but an acceptance
and awareness of
the jagged, rough strength that I do have

and how the balance of
all my parts
both wobbly and sturdy
has led me to where I am

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-A

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