the owl variation

March 30, 2008

I went climbing today. First day of the season. It was sunny, and slated to be 65 by afternoon. My mother-in-law called and offered to take the kids for 4-5 hours. Really, a no-brainer. Get out and go climbing.

So… we chose Castle Rock. Jackson’s Wall. Easy multi-pitch, right up Boulder Canyon. Close, beautiful location.  Something I have climbed many times before. Slipping winter feet into climbing shoes, not the easiest of tasks… but got them on… roped up and off we went.

It was gorgeous. The rock was warm, the sky was blue, the smell of aluminum oxide bringing back floods of memories of climbs past. Up we went. I was amazed at the muscle memory and felt strong. Alan set up a short belay and I climbed right up to a nice large ledge. Comfy. He started off once again. Before long the rope began to drop. I looked up- he was headed down. Hmmmm. Unusual. So I began to take in rope. He climbed 3/4s of the way to me and whispered but the words were whipped away by the wind. What? I signed… not sure what the silence was about but trusting that this had to be good. Sure enough… smack in the middle of our route was a nest. An owl nest. And a beautiful, big, beige and brown owl.

So now the question. What do we do? Climb on as careful as we can, but our very presence a disturbance to this bird who asked for nothing but a nesting spot protected from weather and wind? Go down? Climb around? Hmm. So much for my simple run up familiar territory. But climbing time like this is hard to come by, so really, the only possibility was to climb around then finish the route. Clearly.

So… we started off right around a corner… into vertical territory. In the wind. Not exactly a recipe for a cruise. But it was for the owl. Alan took it all in stride, making his way around the corner and up as though this was the actual route. I can do this, I thought to myself. I think. The rope came tight to me. Time to climb.

I started around the corner and sure enough, the territory was challenging, but doable, distinctly doable. But vertical. And windy. Really windy. For the owl. This is for the owl became my mantra. And all else fell away. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t plan. I could just move, a step at a time, intensely focused on the rock and intensely NOT focused on the wind and the ground so visible between my feet way below. For the owl. It is for the owl.

Next came the expletives. And more exlpletives. Who cares about the #@%$ing owl! What are we doing up here on this marginal day anyway? And what is that flying in the air… lichen bits? No… snow… blowing from over the ridge in this @#%!ing WIND! Breathe, Jenna, breathe. You can do this. And the focus returned. And I moved right. Again. And again. And before I knew it I was holding on a sloped hold… standing at the end of the traverse… now I just had to climb up. I had made it to my first destination! And with that thought, fresh in my mind, I proceeded to immediately pop right off the rock and into the air. @#%#! I had had it! But in that last moment, the moment I lost focus on the rock and returned focus to myself… pride in my accomplishment- spanked! and reminded of two things: 1) the gear works, it does. And 2) focus on the task at hand, let all else fall away and you won’t be the one doing the falling.

Hmmm. This, for the woman who barely brushes her teeth without loading the dishwasher. Or chats and tweets while reworking a syllabus. And feeding kids breakfast. Hmm. Point taken.

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