By Andrew Freeman
I want you to imagine that it’s 6:30 in the morning. I don’t want you to listen to you tell me that it’s 6:30 in the morning. I want you to imagine that it’s 6:30 in the morning. At this particular 6:30 in the morning. I’m riding in a van…hardly a strange thing to be doing when you’re at a climbing camp. But 6:30 in the morning is early. Very early.
The rest of the camp isn’t up, and I’m glad…because sometimes stillness is something that you cherish. Today, with some of the other counselors, I’m going climbing. This is highly unexceptional if you don’t shove yourself into my 6:30 in the morning. The gravel is already grinding under the worn tires of our van. The mist is thick, and the winding two lane highway to Rumney is solitary. Its an atmosphere that almost demands reflection.
Pump up music always seemed like a stupid thing to me. I’ve always felt less focused and more distracted when someone turns on the radio or cranks the iPod in a hopes to make their feet stick just a little better; their ravaged fingers grip just a little bit harder. But as soon as music came on, that particular 6:30 in the morning something felt strange.
Apocalyptica, a group who covers heavy metal with acoustic stringed instruments seemed like a gag group to me. The iPod’s electronic wheel spun to them that 6:30 in the morning, and I started to reel. Something in the mix of the powerful acoustic chords got me thinking about what I was setting off to do, which was of course climb. I was gripped by a sensation totally strange to me. A mixture of melancholy, of complete concentration, of power, and of mysticism.
The circumstances certainly demanded focus. It was one of, if not my last chance to attempt to complete my project, one which I had felt so very close to completing before. Tantalizingly close. Disturbingly close. And on that 6:30 in the morning, I felt as if on the brink of a battle. I stretched my fingers, imagining knights of old, sharpening swords before the last great rally of a war.
The music became strident and martial, still within the confines of the first song to which the iPod dial had turned. The melodies of the piece had resounded within my heart and mind, and now was taking them both for a ride.
And finally the piece ended, and it was silence once again. As Rumney drew closer, I was left with the strangest feeling yet: duty. I felt a duty to perform, no doubt because of the circumstances in which I could either carry home the prize of a completion of my goals, or suffer a wintry year in waiting for my next try. Duty was the strangest feeling yet because, as a 16 year old standing in the woods of New Hampshire, that was exactly what I didn’t have. Something about the intensity of the chords formed by multiple cellos had manipulated me, and somehow, on what should have been a carefree albeit chilly and early morning was a mission I felt compelled to complete.
I want you to imagine that it’s 10:30 in the morning. I don’t want you to listen to you tell me that it’s 10:30 in the morning. I want you to imagine that it’s 10:30 in the morning. I’m sitting back in camp, slouched over a picnic table, with a spoon drooped placidly in a bowl of cold milk and cereal, a vacant look in my eyes. After the fourth clip on the wildly overhanging route, I had fallen, and, with a shout, swung into the wall. A mission failed, a duty unfulfilled.
Repeated success washes out the exalted glory of the next success, and failure makes more valuable the prize of victory. For this do I refuse to regret my failure to finish my route. The mystical quality to that morning had me convinced that this particular few hours at the wall would yield some success. Reflecting on that morning, I realized I had myself convinced that I would do something great because if I had, it would have made some “pieces fit” in the puzzle of my head. I thought I would do something great simply because there was such a dramatic buildup to my attempt. My long introduction simply serves as an attempt to communicate the intensity of those moments in the van, even if they were only in my head.
This is a story without a moral, or without a unifying theme. No such moral or theme seems to fit. This is simply a story of one morning, when at 6:30 I experienced a quiet mystical moment during a van ride, but to my surprise, stumbled upon a less-than-mystical failure. This is simply a story of a day spent climbing.