I went rock-climbing with a new friend last Saturday after escorting. Ten feet up a wall, clinging with my toes and finger-tips, I realized I had no rope on. I was bouldering, so I didn’t need one. But until I looked down, I had’t quite internalized it. When I did, training from the first half of my life took over and, after touching the top, I climbed down safely, deeply grateful I was a Peninsula kid.
Don’t climb up higher than you can climb back down.
Though my new friend clambered and jumped and reached higher and faster, that afternoon I remembered my nursery school teacher’s face. I went slow, testing my balance on each hold, used only the surest hand-holds. My heart fluttered and my biceps quivered, but I was following a process I had learned when I was a third my current size.
There’s a self-respect in knowing how to climb without ropes. Knowing there is no one to catch me, I can either trust my knowledge of myself or not climb. At the end of the day, though I was disappointed in my arms’ weakness after a semester of weight-lifting and vowed to rent climbing shoes rather than use my hiking boots on my next attempt, I was unbearably proud that I hadn’t fallen once.
I was proud to have remembered the lessons of Peninsula.
“I think the true gardener is a lover of his flowers, not a critic of them. I think the true gardener is the reverent servant of Nature, not her truculent, wife-beating master. I think the true gardener, the older he grows, should more and more develop a humble, grateful and uncertain spirit.”–Reginald Farrer, In a Yorkshire Garden, 1909