Climbing, Secret Fire

It’s the first chilly morning of autumn. Those who live outside our tiny temperate zone might scoff, but an overnight low of 39F is indeed chilly for us, just like anything over 75F makes us complain of sweating to death.

We are pale, caffeine-swilling mushrooms here in the forest, and we like it that way.

I woke up under flannel sheets with the dogs atop the covers but plastered to me nonetheless, and there was a thin scrim of condensation along the bottom of my bedroom window. With all three of us breathing and shedding heat, and the bedroom door firmly closed because I like my privacy and the cat likes roaming upstairs at night, winter means there’s a bit of moisture there. One more sign that my favorite season is approaching.

I love winter. I love the rains, I love the quietness of sleeping earth gathering its strength. I love the resting, and I especially like that the rains mean not too many people are out on the sidewalks while I run. It’s perhaps selfish, and I don’t wish any ill on the summertime walkers. I just get annoyed, which is indubitably more about my arrogance than about the people just going about their business.

One of the things about hitting my forties is just letting my feelings be in some cases, without trying to wrench them into a more acceptable shape. There’s a great deal of power in simply accepting what one is feeling, as long as one doesn’t use it as any excuse to act badly. After half a lifetime of being trained to negate, suppress, or flat-out ignore my feelings, it’s luxurious to think I actually have a right to them. It also frees up a lot of energy to examine my behavior and hopefully make it as nontoxic as possible.

I mean, I’m going to fuck up. Despite my best efforts, I’m human. Still, I have the absolute right to feel whatever I want, while being responsible for what I do with said feelings.

Processing said feelings through fiction or running isn’t a bad strategy.

Anyway, I feel like I’m climbing out of a pit. Hand over hand, fingers slipping on a rough rope, blood greasing my palms–but still, I’m climbing. I’ve had this particular feeling most of my life, so it’s no surprise. I am trying to make my peace with the fact that I will probably never reach the top, never step out into the clear light of day. If my life is the climb, so be it.

Plenty of my stories are about endurance. At least in fiction, an ending brings some sort of closure, of balance. A situation achieves re-equilibrium, in some way, and that’s where the end naturally occurs.1 In life, however, I am beginning to suspect there is nothing but the climb, and afterwards is either grateful blackness (which could be considered an ending in its own right, of course) or another, steeper, bloodier, more exhausting climb.

Do souls get tired? On my bleaker days, I know they do.

I don’t know what the rope is attached to. I hope there’s something up there holding the line, somehow. For right now, it’s enough that the rope exists, and if my hands are bleeding and the rest of me is weary, at least I have hands–and at least I am aware of the rest of me, if that makes sense. Maybe the climb is enough, but sometimes, oh, sometimes it hurts.

Miss B is sprawled under my desk, across my feet, and Boxnoggin is a-sploot near the door, waiting patiently for walkies. I got to hug both of my children this morning, my social circles are full of cool people, the garden is abed for the winter, I got the outside faucets covered before the first really chilly night. I will run today, and I can work. (Yes, even recovery is work. Or so I’m telling myself.)

And so, hand over hand, we climb. What’s keeping you on the rope today, my friends? What secret fire, what hidden kindness is fueling you? If it will strengthen, do feel free to share.

  1. Don’t even get me started on the RIGHT ending vs. the HAPPY ending, which may not be mutually exclusive but should not be considered as equal.

4 thoughts on “Climbing, Secret Fire”

  1. I know it sounds bad, but my adult life has always been a climb. Just when everything seems to be going good, something pops up. Turned my birthday this year and that very month got sciatica and arthritis. This adds to other issues mentally.. ADHD, bi-polar, and due to radiation treatments to my head, short-term memory loss. Hey, this can stop anytime. My dog that I got a year ago is a God send. An Africanis, is is very unusual, and that’s been very fun. He is also very loving. Was it cause he was at the ASPCA a year I’ll never know. I wish you very well! Keep writing!!!

  2. One of the squirrels has taken to taunting Crotchstomper McSnuggles through the glass door to the back yard. Since we’re all working from home, we… opened the door. Now the squirrel is cursing at us, vehemently, from the comparative safety of a tree branch.

    We caught a rat recently, and took him over to the local wildlife preserve and released him into the bracken; not eight paces away, on the way back to the van, a hawk was sitting on a signpost and looking at us disapprovingly. I guess it wanted us to release the rat out in the open, like we’re its own personal Doordash?

    And then we were halted just before our driveway by a rather large vulture who had stopped by to snack on a dead squirrel and didn’t appreciate us interrupting his dinner so we could get to our garage. It did eventually withdraw to the top of the fence, but “there’s a vulture in our way” is just about the most 2020 thing I can imagine, wildlife-wise.

    So I suppose my grace at the moment lies in finding humor in the small things, and particularly the unexpected wildlife that keeps intruding on our Very Suburban Home.

  3. I volunteer to do maintenance at a nonprofit children’s camp in the Adirondacks. This combines intense beauty with my inability to sit still and look at same. Built tent platforms, painted, moved dirt, and this past weekend tore down a beaver dam at the top of a breathtaking waterfall then hooted and cackled with my Steward buddies as the water rushed down. Release in release. Camp Little Notch has a website if you want a peek at the beauty. It keeps me sane.

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