I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Remembering adventures

Mama and me in 1943 (or 1944)

This cheeky little girl was me, long ago. I didn't know what the world would hold for me, but I knew I was loved and cherished by my parents. Daddy must have taken the picture, and since I was still in diapers, I figure it must have been my first or second year. Mama had created the outfit, probably even knit that adorable beret. And of course Daddy had to get his car in the picture, too. Is it a Packard? I have no idea, but it sure needed a bath.

I went rummaging around in my pictures, looking for some inspiration for today's post, and it occurred to me that I have always been an active person, looking for adventure. Although I grew up as an Air Force brat (as we were called by those who stayed put in their lives, while we moved all the time), I never doubted that my parents loved me and would provide me with everything I needed. When you're born in such an environment, there is no uncertainty clouding your days. When I think of those children born in a war zone today, filled with uncertainty in every respect, I feel bad for them. What a different world. If I were Queen of the World, it wouldn't be like that for anyone.

But I'm not and now that I'm on the other end of life, I am remembering some of the wonderful moments of exhilaration and discovery that I've experienced. When I lived in Boulder, Colorado, before I got pulled into the skydiving world, I spent plenty of time in the Colorado mountains, hiking many of the fourteeners with friends. "Fourteeners" is the epithet used for the numerous Colorado peaks that are at least 14,000 feet high. There are, I believe, 52 of them. I've climbed exactly half: 26. Some I have climbed more than once, like Longs Peak, which has a direct route (the Keyhole Route) that doesn't require technical skill, and a climber's route on the East Face where you need ropes and at least one other person. I ran into a group of climbers in Boulder who were willing to train me to use crampons and ropes, and we did climb what is called Kiener's Route once many years ago. I found those two links and in reading the descriptions of the routes, I am simply amazed at what we accomplished.

On top of Long's Peak

Of course, I was young then, and in looking at that picture of me I don't remember having long hair but I did, although I remember very well that yellow and blue hat. The Keyhole Route is 15 miles, and I remember starting before dawn to be able to get up and back before the usual thunderstorms formed. I remember the Boulder Field that seemed endless, and the scary part where you hug a sheer cliff with a long drop down on the other side. But I did it, and I remember feeling really exhilarated when we reached the summit. It's almost 5,000 feet of elevation gain and loss.

On the other route, the technical one (Kieners Route), we roped up often as we ascended. I well remember looking at what is called "Broadway," a long stretch below the Diamond shape of the wall, where of course we were roped. You might get a bit of the heeby-jeebies when you look at the picture of it because of all that exposure.

Climbers on Kieners Route, from internet

These days, thinking of completing such a long and arduous climb under those conditions simply amazes me, but reminds me that I have indeed gotten much more circumspect in what I attempt these days. More than 70 people have died on those Longs Peak routes, the last one in 2022 when the weather turned bad and the guy got lost. 

I am not done with adventures, but I have had more than my share already. Now that I am getting towards the last years, or months, or days (who knows?), I realize that many of my adventures have never really left me. They are still there to be remembered, shared and enjoyed. And if I am lucky enough to experience in retrospect once again the fearful moments, I'll consider that to be a bonus! A frisson of fear courses through me now and then, but these days it's for more mundane reasons, like stumbling on an uneven spot on  the sidewalk. 
Fear keeps us focused on the past or worried about the future. If we can acknowledge our fear, we can realize that right now we are okay. Right now, today, we are still alive, and our bodies are working marvelously. Our eyes can still see the beautiful sky. Our ears can still hear the voices of our loved ones. —Thich Nhat Hanh
Some of us seek out those fearful moments, because they remind us of just that: we are still alive, and we can see and hear just like always. Well, maybe some of us need some help in that regard, like needing eyeglasses and hearing aids. But still, we can continue to live each day with an adventurous spirit. It is so much more fun to approach each day that way, so much better than to be fearful of everything around us. Even if we are not in the best shape of our lives, we are still able to have lots of adventures, different from our youthful days perhaps, but still adventures.

Why, just thinking about this post has been an adventure for me. When I went back and refreshed my memory of those strenuous hikes of yesteryear, I experienced the same sense of accomplishment that I felt decades ago. I look forward to what the day ahead will bring, and I look forward to spending some time with family and friends, reading all your blogs and learning what's going on in your lives today. I am hoping also that perhaps you will look at your life with a sense of adventure as you move through the moments, realizing once again how incredibly lucky we are to have another day to enjoy being alive. 

Soon I will climb out of bed and begin the rest of my day. My dear partner, as usual, still sleeps quietly next to me as I type, and now that we are approaching springtime, the light in the morning sky greets me, instead of the darkness of winter. The magic of writing this Sunday morning post has once again catapulted me from drowsy dreams to looking forward to what the day will bring. And of course, my dear friends, I hope it will bring you whatever adventures you desire. Until we meet again, I wish you all good things. Be well.



Barbara Rogers said...

Risk taking seems something that our elder selves shake our heads at considering. I did so many things that I am surprised I survived! No 14-ers for me, though I did drive to the top of Mount Evans about 20 years ago. I'm very impressed with all that you did, and you definitely started out in an adventurous spirit! Keep up doing what you are interested in, and definitely writing a weekly blog, which I appreciate reading!

Rian said...

I really like that quote on 'fear', and copied it. I think as we age, fear seems to creep up on us. And yes, the people we loved, the memories of good times, etc. are there to reminisce and enjoy... for those of us who have been given the time to do this. Thanks for reminding me to be thankful for the days we had... and may have yet.
Also loved hearing about your climbing adventures!

Marie Smith said...

You have a spirit of adventure to this day, Jan. I admire that spirit and desire to live life to the fullest. You embrace every day. You are an inspiration!

Linda Reeder said...

I know a little about mountain climbing from mt son and daughter, but they didn't do the really technical stuff. Scary enough on ice fields ans rock falls though.
I long for adventure, but my adventures are much more tame, like taking roads we've never traveled and discovering new plance.
My daily adventure now is getting up and down the stairs safely. :-/

John's Island said...

Today’s Eye serves as a gentle nudge for us to reflect on our own lives, encouraging us to seek adventure in the everyday and to appreciate the beauty of being alive. The sense of community and connectedness you feel through sharing your stories and learning about the lives of others enriches this narrative, making it not just a personal recount but a shared experience.

As you look forward to each new day with anticipation and hope, your words inspire others to do the same, to value the present, and to find joy in both the grand adventures and the simple pleasures of life. Your closing thoughts beautifully encapsulate the essence of gratitude and the excitement of embracing whatever adventures lie ahead, making your post not just a recount of past experiences but a beacon of inspiration for living life to the fullest.

Be well and have a fine week ahead.


Gigi said...

You are such an inspiration and goad me into looking at my life a little differently. And for that I thank you.

Have a wonderful week, my friend!

Red said...

I well remember those types of experiences. I remember looking down a slope and not seeing the bottom. You knew that the slope was long and steep.

Rita said...

My adventures have always been more with learning new things. More mental and thinking than physical and doing, I guess. Good thing, it turns out--lol! You do both, lady! You are constantly on the go and also deep thinking. You are an inspiration to so many. Have a fabulous adventurous week. :)

Far Side of Fifty said...

Mountain Climbing, I am so afraid of heights, I would never try it. You are one brave lady/adrenalin junkie:) Fun to hear about your adventures.