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Free My Mind


by Brian Warshawsky

May 05, 2002

Itís one of those days. The boss has frayed my last nerve, there are bills waiting on the table at home, and Iím about to explode. I sit in my modern day business world jail cell they call a cubicle, and I stare at the clock, willing the hours to move faster. This isnít me. I feel like a superheroís boring alter ego, like Peter Parker must have felt in staff meetings when he could have been out swinging around the city on webs as Spiderman. The clock seems to move in reverse just to spite me, and I spend the day staring out the window at a boring corporate park. In a show of mercy that makes me believe in God, the clock finally reads four pm. It's finally quitting time.

I burst out of the building and peel out of the parking lot before half my co-workers have grabbed their briefcases. I must move quickly, as precious daylight is wasting away. I speed back to my apartment, and burst through the door like an explosion. I change out of my noose (I refuse to call it a tie) and work clothes into a comfortable pair of shorts and a t-shirt in a fraction of the time it takes me to get dressed in the morning. I grab my pre-packed backpack, a water bottle, and my dog Max on my way back out the door. It has been twelve minutes since I left work. The dog and I hop into the car, with him just as excited to be leaving as I am, and weíre off.

I hit the highway and speed through the ever increasing afternoon traffic, deftly maneuvering past people who obviously arenít concerned with gaining enjoyment from their lives. Seven miles later, I hit my exit, and two miles after that I pull into the little park. Itís supposed to be nothing more than a few trails through the woods for hikers and would-be mountain bikers, but Max and I know better. I grab my stuff out of the car as Max squeezes past me through the open door. He bolts off ahead, disappearing quickly into the undergrowth. I use to worry about him when he did that, but he knows the routine. We do this four times a week, sometimes five, for the last two years. I know that a quarter mile up the trail heíll be there, waiting for me with an impatient look on his face. I smile as I acknowledge this, and begin a light jog up the trail to warm up.

A quarter mile down the trail, sure enough, is Max. He gives me a wag of his tail and turns to bolt off again. Itís here that I get off the beaten path, and enter the woods themselves. Iím always careful to choose a different route so that I donít wear a new path in a different area, thus inadvertently inviting people to my playground, my emotional bunker, if you will. A quick ten minute cross country jog through the woods brings me to a clearing, and my friends become immediately visible as I round a bend. There, stretched in front of me over about two acres, lie thirty-four boulders of various sizes. Iíve counted them before, as I lay in the grass, panting, sweating, and utterly pumped. I look around, and find Max watching me from behind a boulder about ten yards away. He wags his tail, and begins running his laps. Iíve never understood why he does this, but he does it every time. I drop my bag to the ground and pull off my sneakers. I watch him run the first of three laps around the boulder field, knowing that on the second lap heíll stop and begin sniffing all over each boulder. Once heís satisfied that theyíre all still there (or possibly that no other dog has dared to pee on them) heíll continue his laps. I laugh to myself at the absurdity of his canine behavior, and briefly wonder how weird he finds it that we come out here so often so I can climb rocks when I could be smelling them or eating grass like he does.

I pull my climbing shoes on, and retrieve the chalk bucket from my backpack. I approach my time honored warm up, a problem Iíve dubbed Free Time, and sit in front of it. I grab the well-chalked holds, plant my feet, and pull up. The second my ass leaves the ground, and Iím clinging to the rock, forcing my muscles to defy the laws of physics, Iím free. I twist lock to the next handhold, bring my foot over to follow, smear it, and statically work my way up the boulder. Eight moves all together, and I mantel over the top. I smile, knowing I have that route wired. I havenít fallen off it in over a year. I down climb back to the ground, and proceed on with my workout. As I progress through each of the problems in my circuit, my mind clears itself ever more. Itís just the dog and I, in a small enclave that seems much farther from the civilized world than it actually is. Out here, the power company canít find me to demand money for their bill, my boss canít demand my attention. Out here, the world canít touch me. Iíve transformed from Peter Parker to Spiderman. I finish my regular circuit in about 45 minutes, and head over to stare at my foe.

There, in the middle of the field, is the boulder that has defied my every attempt to get up it for the past two years. After spending two weeks straight with it, I finally implemented a two try a day rule, so as to keep my frustration level to a minimum. It starts with a sit start under an overhang, which has to be traversed four and a half feet left before pulling up over small ledge, leading to four more moves to the mantel, most of which are hellishly small crimpers. Max takes a break from his sniffing and peeing routine to come over and watch me. I think he can sense how bad I want this boulder, as every day itís the only time he pays attention to what Iím doing. I sit under the over hang, the rock less than an inch from my head. I take two deep breaths, clear my mind, and begin my two minutes of meditation. I stare at the rock, notice itís texture, itís color, everything about it. I cease thinking completely, and enter my zone. I look to the toe hook that always throws me off, right near the end of the overhang, and, as I have for the last two years, I tell myself that if I send this problem today, I can buy myself a second pair of climbing shoes. I take my position, breath deeply, and pull off the ground. My mind is silent as I reach the first handhold, a decent cup and press onward. I pull the six moves in the four and a half foot traverse off without a hitch. Iíve reached the end of the overhang, and the time has come to once again try the toe hook. I risk a quick glance over at Max. He wags his tail when he sees me looking at him, and I go. I press my left toe into the rock as hard as I can, I bring my hips in close to the wall, and I throw my arm around the overhang to the ledge that I know is there. I pinch it as hard as I can, and swing the rest of my body around with the momentum. I feel the toe hook start slip, and I prepare myself to crash five feet into the ground, as I have for the last two years. A sudden, brief, white rage pours over me and I let a primal scream out as I push up the roof with my right foot and bring my other arm around to match on the ledge. I reach it just as the toe hook gives. Iím left there hanging, my feet inches above the ground and I swing them madly under the overhang searching blindly for a hold. I find one, and am able to push myself up over the overhang. A sense of accomplishment waves over me, as I finally conquere the overhang that had haunted my dreams for two years. The remaining four holds pass so quickly I donít even remember doing them. What I before saw as hellish crimpers felt like rungs on a ladder as I let my ego run unchecked all the way to the top of the boulder. I looked down at Max from atop my throne, and waved. He gave an excited sounding bark of congratulations, and leaves me to my glory as he goes to find new things to smell and pee on. I sat up there for twenty minutes, free and alive. Everything in the world seemed better now. I knew that I had no one to brag to about this, as no one I knew would either care or understand, but that didnít matter.

I knew that I had done it, and that was all that mattered to me. As I started my down climb, it occurred to me that I had yet to name my problem. Minutes later, as I packed my stuff back into my backpack, the name hit me. I laughed to myself as I whistled for Max to meet me at the car, and headed out of my little slice of heaven. When I got home, I opened the logbook that I keep of all the problems that I send, and I marked a new one, Daddy Needs a New Pair of Shoes.

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