The crows are laughing at me. There are three of them parked in tree behind the U Dub climbing wall in the stadium’s south lot. They should be, I don’t know what the hell I’m doing here, an hour before work starts when I could, maybe should, be at home making pouring coffee for my wife—who will have her hands full with the baby all day—and making myself a lunch so I don’t drop a twenty on a breakfast burrito that will fill me for most the day, several coffees and a snack. Instead I’m being taunted by some crows and the prospect of rain as I pull a camera, chalk bag and climbing shoes from my decrepit climbing bag.
The shoes are new and I bought them on a whim when a buddy offered a chance to jump on his pro-deal. I’ve climbing once in the last six years, and was just a trip to the gym, visiting a friend before I moved from Portland. We spent more time talking than climbing. For the last four days I’ve been wondering what the shoes mean. Am I getting back into this? Am I hell bent on being a constant beginner? The shoes ask a lot of questions. The shoes are also dangerous.
I look back at that time in my life with a mixture of pride, fondness, and fear. I was even afraid to really open the box, worried that just simply looking at the shoes would be enough to send me back there. I almost expected there to be a trigger warning pasted on the box just for me.
WARNING! THIS BOX MAY CONTAIN FEELINGS YOU THOUGH YOU PUT AWAY. CONTENTS MY CAUSE OLD FEELINGS TO COME BACK, BUT INTENSIFIED IN NATURE. THESE CRISES MAY BE EXISTENTIAL IN NATURE.
There wasn’t one, and now it is Saturday morning and I’m walking across the small pebbles toward the infamous (in my mind at least) wall of concrete and stone. Two people I’ve never met, but consider mentors none-the-less used to train here, but I try not to think about them as pace around the wall looking for some place to start. I find a hold, chalk up, and make a few moves. Not willing to commit fully to anything, and no longer trusting my grip strength I back off, and drop back down to the pebbles, leaving two indents. I repeat this process over and over again for forty minutes. Make a few moves, back off, walk around the wall, make a few moves, and back off. The crows are gone now and I have to leave too. The rain hasn’t moved in, but there is enough moisture in the air for everything to feel wet. It is time for work.
I sit down in the grass and pull the climbing shoes off, replacing them with a pair of Nike running shoes, toss everything into my bag and hustle across the lot before campus parking sweeps through and finds I neglected to pay. I’m trying not to ask any questions.