Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Early Season Ice

The fall begins to bring grey weather, and we, endorphin junkies, and fresh air addicts begin to get itchy. Trapped indoors as the rock gets desperately cold on the finger tips, the sun begins to hibernate, and there is not enough snow to strap toys to our feet. So, we start pulling on plastic, or hanging upsidown from dry tooling crags, with huge aspirations of climbing HARD this winter. Whispers float through the valley, does not matter if that Valley is Canmore's Bow Valley, or the Ouray's San Juans, or the Alps Chamonix Valley. It is like the childhood game of telephone. The keeners rise early, scraping frost from the dashboards, sipping coffee enroute to the crag, juggling butterflies of excitement and nervousness at the first day of swinging tools. Keenness and ambition often out weigh reason, and long approaches are made for thin slivers of ice, half formed routes, and unprotectable climbs. More often than not the day is spent making a long drive and approach to scare the crap out of yourself on one pitch and then to boldy back off and walk away blaming it on conditions.

As the cycle begins itself this year, I find myself in Banff, Alberta. My new tools and screws still with tags hanging on them despite being a year old, due to a broken hand last year. I fell prey to the process, of keenness, versus conditions, and headspace, of early season ice and got thrown wildly off the horse. After 60 foot fall, broken into two thirty foot sections, and two impacts, the ledge and the ground, last year I am a bit gun shy. The desire is there, but the butterflies are more like monsters, than pretty little fluttering insects in my belly.

Maybe this year I will wait to hear the words fat and juicy before I set out.

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Zen of Being Trapped in an Elevator

The elevator jerked to a halt. My heart lept, please no. The lights flickered back on and then complete darkness. Mild waves of panic swept over me as I fumbled around the panels looking for an emergency phone. Finding familiar shapes, minus the sense of sight was a strange feeling. I lifted the reciever only to be dissapointed by a dead phone. I slithered along the wall, dropping to the floor, huddled in the corner. At a loss of where to begin, and attempting to find a place of Zen. Being out of control is totally against my nature. But I looked it in the same light as climbing. The challenge to control the mind when out of the comfort zone. Ah, the ever detested little mechanical gadget that keeps me accessible to the world, and them to me, was in my pocket, my cell phone. I dialed David, one of my fellow course mates at the Banff Centre, and told him with a wabbly calm that I was stuck in the elevator in the power outage. His sympathy, derived from years of exeprience with a claustrophobic wife, was instant. No, I'm not claustrophobic, I think I'll be ok. Call me back if you don't get out in a little bit.

I sat in the dark, relishing the contact that I had through my cell phone. I started texting Max, my boyfriend, seeking a little more reassurance. I saw it as a little mountain of Zen to try to keep my calm. Just then I realized a few things. We spend almost NO time absent of stimulation, in the dark, or just with our thoughts. Hmm I need to start meditating was my frist thought. This space is really uncomfortable, being helpless, out of control, and completely in solitude in the dark. I thought I saw a sliver of light which was a relief because those urban legends, like air tight elevators, began to seep into my head. The light turned out just to be my cell phone. Images of James Bond breaking through the roof pannel to save me from suffocated made me smile a little. I laid my cell phone open in the middle of the floor to cast a little light in the room. What if I have to go to the bathroom, and I am in here for hours? Then they open it and I have soiled myself. Deja Vu from being 8 years old locked in the bathroom at the library or in the closet at my house attempted to consume me. The irrational imagination is an amazing thing. Rational fear, I have found from experience, is a much calmer state. When I was avalanched in a serac fall, or when I fell 60 feet hitting the ground without a rope ice climbing. Those things were calm and rational. This thought process was far from that.

Maybe I better call someone I thought. So I called the switchboard, which was of course totally jammed with questions and complaints about the power outage. After 10 minutes on hold and rediculous surcharges from my out of country cell phone I thought, maybe i'll try the emergency phone again.

I called the emergency center who immediately dispached a handful of security crew and maintenance workers to save the day. Upon arrival the man yelled to me
"Are you ok?"
"Yes, I'm fine."
"Ok, don't panic."
Hmm I thought, now I surely won't panic, thanks for the support.

The task at hand seemed as intense as neuroscience and quantum physics making me laugh. But also realizing that I was comforted by the fact that there were others around, and that they knew I was here.

The power switched back on soon after a screw driver pried it's way between the door and the wall attempting to open the door manually. I floated up to the 6th floor and got out, deciding to walk back down to the lobby.

It is funny how these little moments teach us about ourselves, our fears and our weaknesses.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Commitment to Coffee

Some people call it an addiction, a bad habit, a crutch, I call it a commitment. If you knew my mom you would know that if she had to choose between her kids and coffee it might be a hard choice! My commitment to coffee ebbs and flows with peer pressure, criticism, Catholic guilt infused so deep in my upbringing that it runs through my blood. I try to take a hiatis each year when I feel like my commitment has become more of a codependant relationship than a healthy one. When I feel like I am surfing a wave that peaks and crashes with each cup of joe.

I love going to sleep because that means I get to drink a steaming cup of coffee in the morning.

Today my cup of coffee is a Kicking Horse Espresso, a brand local to Banff, Canada, my home for the next month. I ground the shiny beans just yesterday. Between the supermarket and home the bag got temporarily misplaced. A minor panic attack ensued but a friend had already located the missing item and stuffed it into my mailbox. A short mission in town landed me a shiny new glass bodum. A few packets of cream pinched from the cafeteria, my mug, and an alpenglow sunsrise that is spilling across the Canadian Rockies outside my window.

I take a deep wiff of the soft, silky, grinds as I fill the base of the glass pot waiting for the water to boil. Steaming water marks the beginning of the dance between water and grinds. I lay the plunger atop the mix and sit waiting for the water to turn a deep brown, wait for the smells to tantalize my nose long enough. Coffee cup and cream are already situated next to the press. Now I threw in there the coffee cup as though it's a thoughtless part of the process, but the reality is that it is quite complicated. The vehicule through which the coffee is delivered, that first precious cup in the morning, the heavenly ritual, is quite important to the sentiment it brings. My dad was an avid coffee drinker, with a similar guilt complex, who at times abandoned his commitment shifting it to tea. But I know his heart sided with coffee. He had a gammut of hand made pottery coffee mugs. Looking back on it I am not sure if this was somthing he loved, or grew to love from the endless christmas and brithday boxes filled with different mugs given by kids, inspired by mom. He was a University Professor and spent many days in his study, sipping tea and coffee, reading and writing. Some of my assosiation with coffee comes from this childhood image; The assosiation between artist, intellectual and coffee. Hence forth, I can not drink coffee out of a factory made mug, it steals some of the creativity of the process. A predictable joke my little brother likes to play when serving me coffee during my visits back home, is to fill my mom's Starbucks mug, choosing the most beautiful, unique, ispring mug for himself. Sporting a huge grin, fighting the laughter, he delivers me the mug saying "Take That!" It never fails to leave us in stitches, and I always drink it up, despite the mug, because of the history of the joke, the mug feels special none the less.

Now, more on the history of my commitment to coffee from my mom's side. I have never met someone more comfortable in her own skin. Growing up in the shadow of this encouraged us to express ourselves, whatever our wierd eccentricities were. Sure, granted, at times I got ridiculed at school, when I carried a Waldo Lunch box to school each day at the age of 17, or my ecclectic outfits adorned with one of my mom's pairs of plaid Chuck Taylor high tops. But once set free from that horrible time in life where kids are cruel, judgemental, insecure, and cutting, I found that this was one of the most amazing gifts a parent can give a kid. Despite my dad's fluctuations with his commitment to coffee, despite his guilty conscience, my mom stayed strong, and committed, as she always is. I once asked my mom if she ever aspired to cut back her coffee habits. She smiled and laughed and said no way. She derives too much pleasure from this habit why change?

Many of our family jokes revolve around my mom's coffee habits.

"Mom, do you want a coffee?" Brendan, my little brother.
"Yeah, get me a ddddddouble esspresso, tttttrrrrriple if they have it!"
My brother could barely breathe as he related this story to me over the phone.

We are in the process of making a Cofffee-o-meter to attach to our telephone. When it rings and MOM flashes on the caller ID there will also be a caffiene rating from 1-10. Anywhere between 1-5 is safe to answer. Anywhere above, it may take some consideration of what space you are in.

So, my coffee commitment is not a problem, or an obsession, mererly an inherited passion, that as long as it gives me as much simple joy as it does this morning I will embrace!!

Friday, October 26, 2007

A Waking Dream

it is one of those moments where you sit looking at the world and feel like it is a film unfolding in front of you. Or that you are a "voyeur" peeking through a sliver in the door and seeing something you were not meant to see, were not meant to be a part of. Then you step back, or maybe forward, back into your body and realize, this is not a waking dream, this is my life. The reality seems almost too perfect. You sit, and wait, for it to crumble, crash, burn, but it does not happen. That is what you have grown accustomed to, struggle, suffering, obstacles, and you almsot yearn for it. This perfection, the beauty that lies across the landscape just outside the 360 panorama of glass windows can not be real. The rugged mountains are plastered in early season snow, striations of white filling in the gaps of the crumbling limestone. At sunset the mountains are cloaked in clouds save one small fenetre of blue. A rabbit hole in Alice's Wonderland, tempting you, tantalizing, showing what is there behind the encroaching cloak of clouds. Reminding you that behind lingers beauty, hope, that will return tomorrow or the day after. And, just before the sun dissapears behind the mountains, as though someone has taken a tube of pink lipstick and outlined the edges of the cloud, the edges of the window catch fire like a smoldering paper, molten red seeping. I look around and no one seems to notice the beauty that is unfolding outside the window. Consumed by food, conversation, complacency. I am new here and present, in transition with heightened senses. The space I love best.