Sarah Jane Alexander - Reader Blog 4

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Who needs money when you can trade it for gear? Photo by Sarah Jane Alexander.

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Even though I was barely off the ground, three little boys gazed at me with awe. I was handling that gym plastic like I was born on it. Not doing anything tough or fancy – just graceful traversing.

"Are you a real rock climber?" one of them asked.

I replied with a question I had asked myself many times. "What's a real rock climber?"

I could see them thinking hard, but perhaps my philosophizing was a bit deep. So I gave a suggestion. "Is it someone who climbs on real rocks outside?"

"Yeah!"

"Well, yeah, then I'm a real rock climber." My answer was oversimplified for the little guys. I didn’t know how to make them understand that a deeper feeling makes me a real climber: I cannot separate my soul from the rocks.

I am addicted, obsessed, tormented and thrilled.

My mind swirls with climbing riddles all day and even in my dreams.

I spend a vast amount of time pondering such questions as:

  • How can I improve?

  • Where will climbing be good this time of year?

  • How do I become a ropegun?

  • Is any badass gear on sale?

Etcetera, etcetera into infinity.

Boulders bejewel the Sierra Nevada foothills between Fresno, California, and Yosemite. Photo by Sarah Jane Alexander.

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While some people climb, they could live without it. If I had to live without it, my next philosophical question would be: "Am I alive?"

Climbing renewed the joy of living that had faded since I was a child and every day was a new adventure. As I languished into adulthood, mundane stressors such as commutes and bills filled my habitual orbit of thought.

Now that I am excited about the chance to grow as a climber, to dream up escapades, to develop new friendships, I say I wasn't alive. I existed.

Now, this old world is new.

Everything I behold, I examine with awakened eyes.

Driving through the picturesque foothills that lead to Yosemite, I perceive rocks adorning the hills as more than landscape furniture.

"What grade would that one be?" I wonder. "Hm. I bet I could get up that."

Recently I was telling a woman who lives near one of the quaint foothill towns about my passion. "I'm obsessed," I said.

She laughed. "I climb once in a while. Not very often. I live near a great site though."

"How could you stay away?" I wondered. "How could you live near rocks and not be all over them constantly?"

Then I realized, she's not a climber. She's a person who climbs.

True climbers have one mood: climb on!

If they're not doing it, they're thinking about it, reading about it, plotting trips. Their minds have no rest days.

Lately, my checking account has lacked rest days; I'm starting to build my rack.

My company is laying off workers. Though I am trying to keep my fear of losing my job in check, I would like to have a cash cushion. But when biners go on sale, or when I must have a grooved belay device ... bye-bye money! I watch my cushion shrink as my rack grows.

So hell yeah, I am a real climber.

For more from Sarah Jane Alexander visit her website: time2climb.com