“…accepting what already is, what has always been, is to grasp happiness. With this in mind, we do not become happy, but rather realize the happiness that always is.
Examples of this just being are ever present in natural settings. An eagle perched in a tree keenly watches. It does not try to be an eagle, it is eagle-ness, and it does not try to watch, it just watches. The effort is not to have meaning in living, rather the effort is to be meaning. The mountains do not have meaning, their forms are the meaning of “mountain”.”
-Dave W. Wise
I woke up on June 29th knowing exactly where I needed to go for the 4th of July holidays. A few phone calls and a few days later, I was headed into the Cowen Cirque south of Livingston, Montana. In my last blog post I lamented not having the adventures I really want. Time to stop lamenting. We left Bozeman at 530am on the fourth, carried our climbing gear up the 9 mile, 3,600′ vertical trail, and drank in views of an incredible climbing line. Knowing my foot, and afternoon thundershowers were still a huge liability, we took the rest of the day to rest and watch the weather. It rained at 430pm, blew over at 630pm, and our friend Marko showed up to boost the spirit at 7pm.
Josh and I woke up at 400am on the 5th, and moved quickly- breakfast, bathroom, gear, approach the route. 545am- rain. Shit. And it kept raining. We found the base of the route, but it was pouring, so we bailed and hiked up into the Cirque. While we were both sad not to climb the technical route, I think it’s impossible not to be stoked on simply being in the Cowen Cirque.
We had left a few creature comforts in hopes of “going light” and with more rain on the horizon, it seemed unlikely the route would be dry even by the 6th. So we hiked out and made promises of our return.
After the hike up to the Cirque, and 20 miles on the trail, my foot was cooked. Maybe the weather was a sign I wasn’t ready to be on big rock routes, but it doesn’t matter. The focus of my weekend changed on the way down, perhaps towards something even more important.
Back in Bozeman Josh left for the Tetons, and I was still itching for a climbing fix. Marko and I headed out to Gallatin Canyon for a few pitches, and a little more validation that my foot is indeed still recovering. The rain chased us back to Bozeman, and left me scratching my head for the “next thing”. Saturday dawned with splitter weather, but I could barely walk. I was searching, and wasn’t going to stop. “Get your bivy gear Marko, let’s go.” My original vision from the previous Saturday wouldn’t fade- we got in the car and let my lead foot take over. I wanted alpine, any way I could get it.
East then south, then east, then north. Paradise Valley, Yellowstone National Park, the Beartooth Highway, and East Rosebud came and left the windshield. Saturday night the road ended in Alpine, Montana, and we walked from there. 10 years ago I came to Alpine after my first ever alpine climb on Granite peak. This place is even more inspiring now. We walked up the trail until I couldn’t any more, and camped on a boulder, under a boulder, with the rain washing around us.
The morning dawned clear and we woke early. Marko had to work, and I was ready to let some domestic chores pull me away from the deep reflection and introspection the wilderness can bring. Thanks Josh for your indomitable stoke, and Marko for your willingness to simple be there with me.
So what was I chasing? Skander-ness. Like the eagles, and the mountains, I wanted to see what Skander would do, when he couldn’t be the running, climbing mountain athlete that he aspires to be. For a long time now, I’ve been living with the determination that who we are is determined by what we do- but really, this is backwards. What we do is a reflection of who we are. In many ways, I am so focused and driven by what I “should” be doing, rather than simply doing what feels most authentic to me. The notion that I am like a mountain, defining “what is Skander” simply by being, rather than pushing myself to be any particularly thing has been comforting. This post and my trip last weekend are fun reflections of that.
My last few posts have been an accurate reflection of the sadness in my heart. Compassion, breath, and gentleness have been on my mind. These are the things I need most, and are the things that I am the least good at. For a long time I’ve held to the notion that “we can be whoever we dream we are.” I’m realizing that some of the best support I’ve gotten recently has been from friends who share that vision of who I can be, even when it includes the things that I am not so good at. I’ve written a lot about my core values, but sometimes they can feel like a burden I have to uphold rather than an affirmation of who I simply truly am.
This weeks realization: “support” is more than encouraging words or physical acts- it is the belief that someone can accomplish their dreams, even if they are very difficult or don’t come naturally. My friends know my ability for compassion, joy, and gentleness- they are holding that in trust for me. I’m grateful to tap into it.