On the way out to Mt. Whitney from Marin the GPS took me to Lake Tahoe and then directed me south to Mammoth Lakes. On the way home she decided to take me on a different route. One that went right through Yosemite. I paused for a moment wondering if I should stick with the road I once traveled or continue on my gluttonous path through Nature’s bounty. Nature won…as she always will with me.
I knew the day was going to be sublime when I left Murphey’s Motel and stumbled upon my kind of coffee shop. Rarely do I ask if there is anything gluten free to eat, because more often than not the answer is, Yes – this banana. Nothing against bananas, but I wasn’t in the mood. I was starving. It had been 20 hours since my last meal, and I was still making up for calories expended on Whitney. Alas, in tiny Lee Vining, the coffee shop had a cornucopia of gluten free treats. I selected a breakfast cookie of oats, dried fruit and chocolate chips, grabbed my coffee and made my way to the Tioga Pass. Straight into heaven.
If you had told me I was driving through a theme park, I would have bought it. I’ll never tire of looking at granite mountains grounded by boulders that have tumbled down through time. Nor the crystal lakes randomly deposited in nooks and crannies, linked together by storybook streams of water that move at a perfect pace, in no hurry to arrive at their destination.
I, however, did need to keep to a schedule. I chose my picture taking opportunities with care, pulling off to snap a photo of Half Dome, and a sea of peaks laid out like dominoes midway through the park, and I even managed to snap a pic or two for couples and families wanting everyone in the shot. Every person that I encountered that day was joyous. Why not? No cell service, no stop lights, no buildings…just staggeringly beautiful landscapes to sweep the cares away and leave in their place pure love.
I continued to fill up my center with her energy, drinking in the air, chewing on the views, and spilling out my gratitude as each bend in the road revealed to me reason after reason to be grateful to be alive, right here, right now. It was a brief journey through Yosemite, but one that had a massive impact on me.
Only I didn’t realize quite how massive until I got home.
My sister was kind enough to fly out from the east to take care of the boys after The Genius returned them home from a little vacation with The Family G and The Happy Dance Chick. (I’m sure they all had a wonderful time swapping stories about how to cover tracks and deflect and deny.) In return for my sister’s kindness, the boys gifted her with an intestinal infection to rival all others. She probably caught it while catching the hurl from the Tall Dude in a plastic bowl conveniently located at the end of an aisle at Target. Can you believe the store wanted her to buy it? Not the mutilated breakfast that sloshed in it, but the bowl itself. She balked. And walked.
And then spent the remainder of her time in Marin slowly regaining her appetite only to lose it and nearly all her organs in the toilet, again and again.
The boys tackled me at the door upon my arrival, asking question after question about my mountain climb. I hid the bags of souvenirs I had gathered (rocks from Whitney…shhhh…don’t tell, maps, magnets, treats, and the supremely important t-shirts) in the closet and settled in to snuggle and center myself as I returned to sea level. We spent the afternoon playing with the WAG bag.
Later that evening I opened the boys’ suitcases to unpack their clothes. In the Tall Dude’s suitcase was a pink t-shirt with a picture of Mt. Whitney, her name written in script below her rugged facade.
This was my spontaneous thought:
Are you kidding me? I climbed Mt. Whitney and you gave him the t-shirt?
How is that not totally freaking weird? Excuse my poor grammar. But, really?
My sister came into the room and saw me holding the t-shirt.
Tall Dude said The Happy Dance Chick gave him the t-shirt. It was her daughter’s.
She gave it to him and it was a hand-me-down? I was gobsmacked. A sound emerged from my mouth that was like a laugh but devoid of fun and merriment.
Why didn’t you give him the one from Disneyland? Or The Grand Canyon? Or that leftover one from summer camp back in 2010? Or the white one?
Why that shirt?
Just because it wasn’t being worn anymore? Or because it was pink and that’s his favorite color? Well, that is SO funny, because right about the time you gave my son the Mt. Whitney t-shirt, I was CLIMBING! MT.! WHITNEY!
Can you believe the coincidence? My eyes hurt from rolling.
I’ve struggled to describe how the discovery of the Mt. Whitney t-shirt left me feeling. On one hand it’s no big deal for me. What can I do? No reason to waste energy on it, or worse, run negative thoughts about it. On the other hand, it suggests a real lack of judgment on the part of The Happy Dance Chick. And The Genius. I thought about how I would respond if Mr. Jackpot did something similar. Oh, wait…I don’t have to conjure up a scene. It happened. Mr. Jackpot wanted to build the boys a clubhouse. A very sweet and generous thing to offer. We both decided it wouldn’t be the right thing to do. That was something The Genius should be a part of. And so began my fateful Father’s Day experience. But it was the right move.
Now, this climb of Whitney…it’s fair to say this was the single most important self-care commitment I’ve ever made. I trained for this. I braved it out. I got altitude sickness. I peed in front of people and then talked to them about the local fishing climate. I climbed in the dark and straddled her crest, and willed my way to her summit. The boys cheered me on all the way. This was something the three of us did together.
I did that climb for them.
And The Happy Dance Chick gave my biggest supported the t-shirt.
I wanted to find a synonym for stupidity, because I just don’t like the word, and came across this divine list. I was so moved (as in laughing my arse off) that I couldn’t bear to select just one, I’ll leave that up to you.
- Dullness of mindstupor, stupefaction, apathy, slowness, inertia, heaviness, obtuseness, sluggishness, stolidity, feeble-mindedness, folly, weakness, silliness, nonsense, absurdity, imbecility, imprudence, lunacy, simplicity, idiocy, brainlessness, shallowness, weak-mindedness, fatuousness, fatuity, incapacity, short-sightedness, poverty of intellect, impracticality, addle-headedness, dullness of comprehension, puerility, senility, ineptitude, giddiness, thick-headedness, asininity, muddleheadedness, slowness, lack of judgment, injudiciousness, stupidness, slow-wittedness, bluntness, emptiness of mind, insensibility, doltishness, ignorance, lack of intelligence, mental deficiency, fatuity, boobishness*, nitwittedness*, dippiness*, battiness*, balminess*, goofiness*, baloney*, nertz*, bull*, hooey*, piffle*, phooey*, blatherskite*.
Antonyms wisdom*, intelligence, judgment. To be fair, some of the above words don’t apply.
It took until the next afternoon, when I was swimming in the bay with Mr. Triathlete (He told me he wanted to pamper me as a reward for my climb. Open water swimming is his idea of pampering. Mine, too.) for me to process the bizarre nature of the incident now known as Operation T-shirt. To be honest, I just found it creepy. Harmless, but creepy. About 20 minutes into the swim, as I was being dragged toward a massive anchor chain attached to a vessel while I adjusted my leaky goggles, Operation T-shirt became a non-event.
Nature had other plans for my attention.
Mr. Triathlete and I got a late start to our swim for reasons that must wait to be revealed. (You’ll love it.) Our timing and the tide did not sync up. Getting out of the docks from the South End Rowing Club was definitely more challenging than in the past. Once beyond the docks I came to understand what it’s like to be a salmon returning home to spawn.
We had decided to swim the perimeter of Aquatic Park instead of two laps of the buoys. Both routes clock in at a mile, but the perimeter swim is more mosh pit, less jello juggling. Which was SO fun when you factor in a flooding tide and a pair of leaky goggles. Each time I had to stop to adjust them I lost all my gain. Mr. Triathlete was so patient. There was no giving up and heading in. We were out there. The conditions were less than hospitable. So we power through. And then we get to celebrate the achievement.
But first we have to avoid being knocked unconscious by a large, metal chain. As we futzed with my goggles he looked over my head. His bright blue eyes widened as he warned me of my peril. I turned to look up at a ship that made me feel like a bobbing apple. I was less worried about the metal chain and the behemoth it was attached to and more worried about the food chain – the various marine life lurking in and around them. I fish; I know where they like to hide. I didn’t want to be another link, so I swam like my hopes and dreams would all be realized once I hit the half-mile mark.
It kicked my tuchus.
At the half-mile mark there was a sailboat I was sure to collide with if I didn’t either swim faster or cut to the left, shaving off a big curve that turned us toward the imaginary finish line.
I cut the corner. I’m still bummed about that. I could have done it. I just didn’t want to work hard enough. Threading the needle between two sailboats was no fun either, but I had it in me to make the curve. That’s not going to happen again.
At the 3/4 mile mark, Mr. Triathlete massaged a cramp out of my calf. It wasn’t blinding, but it was enough to cause concern with one week to go before my bay crossing. I was really trying to hydrate, eat well, take my herbal tonics, and still I get a cramp. Er. And leaky goggles.
We rolled around like seals, laughing and letting our arms take a breather. Mine were worked over. As I floated on my back, they looked longingly at the beach, imagining themselves laying side by side on narrow towels feeling absolutely nothing but warmth. Unfortunately for them, I had another 1/4 mile to go and the bay was agitated. But the tide worked with us as we made our way to the docks. My goggles kept their seal and my legs relaxed. I brought back the glide and settled down to enjoy the last of my time in the bay that day.
When we emerged from the water we applauded each other. Our smiles were broad and our bodies relaxed. We hugged.
That was my most challenging swim by far. I felt really good about the effort it took to get past the opening in the retaining wall that leads to the bay and make my way to shore. Even Mr. Triathlete, who’s completed two Ironmans, was impressed by the strength of the tide and what it took to get through the first part of that swim.
I peeled off my wet suit and stood at the edge of the dock in the early evening breeze. I didn’t feel its cold, just the movement as my gaze lifted toward the Marin Headlands and Mt. Tam. I thought about how proud the boys were of me when I got home and how excited they were about my upcoming swim. My climb and swim as achievements pale in comparison to how gracefully they have handled our divorce. As much as I hope to set an example for them, they already set one for me.
As has Nature. She stands tall, is bold, beautiful, welcoming, confident, comfortable (when we treat her well), and uplifting. She is my muse. My mentor. She’s always in my corner. Her challenging tides gave me an opportunity to be brave and willing to work hard to achieve my goal. She reminds me that I know what to let go of and what to reach for. That my dreams will become my reality when I work hard to make it happen. And that I still have a little ways to go to realize my true potential.
But I’m almost there.
As long as a nurse shark doesn’t derail my plan. The bay swim, complete with another round of beautiful encounters is next…