…no, there is too much. Let me sum up.

So, apparently it’s been six months since I last wrote in here. That’s both surprising and not. Surprising, because I’m still finding it hard to believe that we’re in June already, not surprising because I have tried to write multiple times and have found it too complicated to continue. (As evidenced by the fact that I rewrote those last five words about eight times, even just now.)

However, following my friend A’s conclusion that “Done is better than perfect,” I’m just going to try to brain-dump some.

It was a hard winter. Meteorologically, it seemed to go on forever – I only just put away my winter sweaters last weekend, and that was in despite of the forecast calling for highs in the low 60s later this week. Politically, it was…challenging. Psychologically/emotionally, it was hard – my grandfather died in early October. Physically, it was discouraging, and continues to be – seems like every time I think I’m finally moving forward, past the injuries of the past couple of years, I’ll retwist my ankle stepping on ABSOLUTELY NOTHING ON A FLAT TRAIL, or twist my knee on a green slope wipeout while learning to ski, or do something wonky to my wrist while climbing in Leavenworth. I’m struggling with the idea that this is the new normal for me – having to be careful about one joint or another, and constantly having to gauge whether the ache/pain I feel is enough to justify holding off on physical activity for x amount of time more, or if I should just work through it. Because the other problem is that since I have been a lot less generally physically active in the last eight months than I would otherwise have been, I am less fit than I’ve been in years, and it’s getting me down.

Three weeks ago, two men were killed and another was badly injured at the Hollywood Transit Center here in Portland. They had stepped in to try to stop a guy who was shouting racial/religious/ethnic hate speech at two teenage girls, one wearing a hijab, the other black. The guy turned and stabbed/slashed at the three men, fatally wounding two of them. The two men who died were Ricky Best and Taliesin Myrddin Namki Meche. Mr. Best was a father of four and a Veteran; Mr. Meche was a fellow Reedie, freshly graduated and out to save the world. (Among his last words, apparently, were “Tell everyone on this train that I love them.”) The man who survived, Micah Fletcher, is a PSU student and poet.

Memorials at the Hollywood Transit Center

I started crying when I happened to go through the transit center a couple of days ago for an unrelated errand and saw all the memorials. I don’t have a coherent narrative for what I (along with all of Portland) am trying to process. There’s the grief for the victims and their families, swallowed up in an instant by loss that should not have had this place in their lives. There’s sorrow and heartache for the girls, who did not deserve to be targets in the first place and now have the additional psychological burden of the consequences. There is vertigo, of sorts, a reeling incomprehension. (How could the attacker have done this, any of this? Reading the narratives, seeing the warning signs in his past actions and avowed beliefs, brings me no closer to comprehension.) There is second-guessing. (What if I had been there and been the one to step in? Would he have attacked a woman? What if the people who’d stepped in had found a different way to intervene – would he still have attacked? What else am I missing about the city that I love and call home?) And there’s fear: fear for what this will mean for the future. Fear that this will mean that people – that *I* – won’t act as Best, Meche, and Fletcher did when it is next needed, fear that fear will keep me and others from trying to save the world in the small ways that are all that 98% of us will ever have the opportunity to effect.

All that being said, the winter wasn’t all bad, and things are getting better. Continue reading

Progression

We’re coming up on the ten-month mark since I fell and broke/sprained my ankles. In the past few months, I’ve been telling those who ask that I feel like I’m back to about 93% of where I was, and that percentage hasn’t moved much. That reflects that although I have been mostly functional – I’ve been climbing and can usually walk out any ankle stiffness within a few minutes, etcetera – I have still felt limited. I am still hesitant to try running again, no matter how much I miss the trails, and after one dance back in the summer that left me with an aching ankle for a couple of days, I’ve felt like I had to avoid dancing, too.

I can dance now, however! I had a friend in town this last weekend, and he wanted to go hear a bluegrassy band play. Since they were playing at the Secret Society, I guessed it was probably actually a dance, so I figured I would wear my “dancing outfit” – Converse and dark clothes (to make my sweating less visible) – and, you know, at least try to dance once. To my delight, I was able to dance without any apparent problems, and I ended up dancing about two out of every three dances in the hour and a half the band played. For me, this was holding back; normally I dance basically every dance. I thought it would be best not to push it, so I sat a few out. Another friend showed up towards the end, and I bounced over to her, exclaiming “I can dance I can dance I can dance!”

I had almost forgotten how much I love dancing. I haven’t been missing it as much as I have trail running or climbing, because I hadn’t been dancing all that often in the year or so before I broke my ankle. Partly that’s because I was recovering from another sprained ankle from the summer of 2015, and partly that’s because dancing tends to take place too late for me. But dancing on Saturday reminded me of how surprisingly important dancing is in my psyche. (I say surprisingly because before my freshman year of college I didn’t really dance. It was only when I took jitterbug for a PE credit, and my friend B took it with me and essentially taught me a year’s worth of swing dancing in the space of a quarter, that I discovered how much I love it. So somehow it still seems new to me… even though by now I’ve been dancing for almost half my life.)

So that is awesome, having dance back in my life. And I might try a little gentle trail-running on the mulched paths of Mt. Tabor sometime soon. But I think another lingering issue may be here to stay.

Before I fell, I wouldn’t say I was a fearless climber, but when it came to bouldering at least, there wasn’t a lot that phased me. I both love and fear one corner of the Circuit gym in southwest Portland, because there are so often great stemming problems set there and because I’ve fallen from near the top so many times. But that was the exception, really.

Now, however – and I know I’ve said this before – fear has become a refrain in my climbing. I’d like to think that I’m getting better, that I am less likely now to really panic like I did in a Leavenworth weekend back at the end of September, but I still get hit at unexpected and usually inconvenient times with thought-scrambling bouts of fear. And while that hasn’t stopped me climbing and pushing myself to try harder things and risk falls from greater heights… I wish it would go away. This is now the primary thing holding down my “percent recovered” estimation. When any given climbing session will almost certainly contain some degree of fear, I just don’t feel, well, myself, my old self.

Maybe the fear will continue to recede. Maybe it won’t, in which case I’ll just come to grips with that being the new normal, and keep on keeping on. I don’t know.

It is gratifying, however, that on Tuesday of this week – one week shy of ten months since falling – I got my first post-fall 5. Not only got it, but flashed it. Despite being hit by fear one move from the top, when my hands were getting tired and I wasn’t sure I had enough strength left in one of them to remove the other to reach for the top. I went for it anyway, despite the fear (the fear that’s making my palms sweat as I type this, thinking back on it), and didn’t fall and did finish. …It wasn’t even that hard. I had been struggling – like, a LOT – on a 3 only minutes before this. But hey, it’s a 5! I’ll take it.

More climbing

I went climbing in a new place last weekend! Not Leavenworth or Smith Rock, nor even Carver or Ozone, but Frenchman Coulee, a charmingly obscure name for a charmingly remote set of walls near Vantage, WA. Remote, but nonetheless very busy during the three-day weekend. The first three of us arrived around 2 pm on Friday, and were able to find a camping space large enough for our whole group (eventually totaling five people), but groups that arrived later were definitely struggling. In all, I would guess that there were about 100-150 people in the main camping area, where we were, and an additional 50 or so in the secondary area, over the Feathers to the northeast. It wasn’t much of an issue, although the vault toilet was very, very, very full and kinda gross. (But I’m so glad that it was there!)

I didn’t climb on Friday – I wasn’t sure how many climbs I would be able to do and wanted to save them for Saturday/Sunday – but J and D headed up to the Feathers after we all set up our tents, and got a couple climbs in each. (It got dark around 4:45 pm.) Having been joined by B, we huddled around the campfire for a couple of hours…without any firewood. Instead, we had a string of solar-powered LED fairy lights that D had brought, which we draped around the ring of stones. Continue reading

Last weekend in Leavenworth (this season)

A couple of friends and I went climbing in Leavenworth, WA this past weekend, eager to get in one more good session of bouldering before the outdoor season pretty much ends. And apart from my mood tanking on Saturday evening (PMS + recent death in the family + allowing myself to get cold, hungry, and dehydrated), we had a really good time. It only rained at night, when we were all nestled snug in our tents, and although the rain did mean a few climbs were untenable, we still managed a good selection. Highlights included B flashing “The Physical” (a V4), E flashing “Lovage” (V3-) and me getting my first-ever outdoors V2 (“Machine Gun Funk, AKA Susan’s Arete”). That was particularly nice because I tried it repeatedly, getting about the same distance each time, then took a big, long break, actually really looked at the problem and did some beta-thinking, and the next time I got onto it and tried my new beta, which I had worked out myself, I finished it.

2016-10-22-icicle-creek
Icicle Creek

 

Continue reading

Goat Rocks Wilderness and Iron Creek Campground

My friends and I spent the final weekend of July camping in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, with day hikes in the Goat Rocks Wilderness. Our campground of choice (this is the second year we’ve been there) is the Iron Creek Campground. It’s well-maintained, laid out in such a way that it never seems crowded, even when every campsite is full, and has the added bonus of proximity to the lovely Cispus River, perfect for cooling off after those hikes! In short, highly recommended. Our evenings were spent around a campfire at the “main” site of the three our group had. An innovation this year was a group dinner on Saturday night of campfire nachos, which were great!

On Saturday, I joined the majority of the people in our group in a hike toward Heart Lake/Johnson Peak, up and along a ridge overlooking Packwood Lake and Mt. Rainier. Getting to the trailhead involved some self-doubt, as I was driving the lead car and the directions our thirty-year-old guidebook gave along the twisting snarl of Forest Service roads were sketchy. We had a modern map to help things along, but it was still very much a case of “just as you start to think you should turn around and go back to x turn and take the other choice, you arrive at the trailhead.” We may have cheered.

The guidebook said that the trail runs, “up and down, but mostly up” on the way out, and that was certainly the case. Truthfully, the first few miles of this route aren’t a lot of fun. They aren’t horrible, either – mostly just monotonous. The trail in all its late-summer bushiness would have pleased the Knights Who Say Ni, but miles of dust and leg-whacking shrubs wasn’t the most fun I’ve had on a trail.

Magenta paintbrushes. Oh, and a mountain.
Magenta paintbrushes. Oh, and a mountain.

That being said, the views from about mile 3.5 onwards made up for it. Continue reading

Getting there

View of trail, river, and fogOn Sunday, I went on my second hike since breaking my ankle. Did Dog Mountain in the Gorge with a friend. Took about three hours round-trip – including very little time at the [blustery, foggy, quite cold] top. It’s only been about four and a half months, and the Dog Mountain hike is about 7ish miles long (there’s some disagreement about this), with 2800′ of elevation gain (thus sayeth the Washington Trails Association). So I am content.

Some thoughts on GMOs

A family member recently shared with me an article/opinion piece that said that Monsanto (the Big Ag company) is slowly dying, and asked my opinion about it, and about genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Fields of goldTo borrow a very good phrase from Ramez Naam, “GMOs are neither poison nor panacea.” I have several reservations about them that mean I cannot embrace them freely, but I think that they should not be dismissed out of hand, simply by virtue of being GMOs. Some, like golden rice, or drought-resistant corn, seem like they have some good arguments to accompany them, as being “simple fixes” to endemic issues. Additionally, as climate change becomes an increasing factor in everyday global life, I am loathe to get rid of any potential tool.

BUT.

My reservations about GMOs can be divided into two main categories: uncertainty of effects, and dislike of monopoly.

Perhaps Jurassic Park had too much of an effect on my impressionable mind, but Jeff Goldblum intoning “life finds a way” sounds in my head on a fairly regular basis.

Continue reading

If you can’t take the heat… get out of the city

Sunday saw record-high temperatures, beautiful blue skies, and my first hike since breaking my ankle! My friend Paul (author of The Guide) was in town, and seeing as he’s both an exceptionally experienced hiker/backpacker and understanding of what it means to be recovering from serious injury, I asked for his recommendation on a hike in the area that would be somewhat challenging but not too bad. After a bit of back and forth, we settled on Tom Dick and Harry Mountain, out in the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness. I had heard much about this hike, but had never been. Time to redress that insult to my local Oregon wildlands!

We set out from Portland around 7:30, and got to the trailhead at 8:30. The limited parking was already almost full, and the day was already quite warm. We strapped on our various braces – both of us now have dodgy ankles – and set off. Continue reading

A few thousand small steps for a woman…

Hydrangea 2016-06-01

I walked home from work yesterday. 4.2 miles in about an hour and fifteen minutes may not seem like much. But since I fell and broke my right ankle (and badly sprained the other) in late February, this was a small but significant achievement! I’d walked some of the distance from work to home before this, but never the whole distance. And, even more pleasingly, I’m not actually all that sore today. My ankles are a little stiff, but not actually painful. So, when I get cranky about not being able to do all the activities I was doing before I fell – bouldering, trail running, walking down stairs easily, etc. – I need to think of this and remember how far I’ve come in just over three months.