One thing is for sure: It takes a village. That's cliche, I know. But it's the truth. Without Big Mama, Melissa, Coria, Annie Hank, and Maiyer, our climbing life might have been reduced to a home pull-up bar and climbing videos. Or worse, we might have put it aside thinking, "We'll get back into it after the kids are older . . . " Which wouldn't have been the end of the world, but by that time - call it an addiction, an attachment - whatever it was, it was woven into my identity for good and both Brad and I wanted this as much individually as we did as a family.
Those early years, especially after we had John-Pio were marked by Anne Hughes' support and enthusiasm to help us make climbing possible as a family. That third-person couldn't be just anyone - it had to be an expert someone, someone who was unfazed, who could accept twists, turns, and unpredictability. It had to be someone with shared climbing goals and adventures, but who would not sink when we actually had - in the words of Van Morrison, "Days like This". And there were plenty of those. If it were not for the willing - mixed with a modicum of willfulness I admit, any possibility of a climbing trip with our dear friend Mattie Sheafor, would have just been blank pages in a photo album. Seriously. But Anne was there at the climbing crags for mostly all of it: from babies turned toddlers turned preschoolers to now school age - what a trip its been!
In the last 9 years or so, we've been blessed with our circle of climbing friends - those few close adult friends who have helped make things happen at the crag or bouldering area - who entertained, spotted, played games, and even changed a few diapers. Misa, John-Pio, and Emma (who was mostly busy with dance but sometimes came along), have spent hundreds and hundreds of hours at Devils Lake now, and you know what? To this day, they have never complained or wished out loud that they had friends or other families along with us. Never. Somehow they've grown into these crag kids who understand that they don't have to climb; they just have to know we do.
So I can only imagine how fun it's been for them to now have family friends who like to get outside. And not just city outside-ness (although that's fun too), but a family who climbs outside. Let me just interject that I've grown to accept how much I miss Mattie and her family, and Amy Skinner and hers - two families who value similar lifestyles and who happen to be significant parts of our lives. Along with the resolve of missing and wishing that we lived closer geographically, I was also happily resigned to living the climbing life as we know it.
Until yesterday! We went to the Lake to boulder and hang outside with Lisa, Tom, Jack, and Lily. It was a great day, even if we had to stalk people in order to snag a parking spot, and even with the mosquitos and biting flies. We all seemed to get in the bouldering we wanted. And at the risk of stating the obvious and seeming overly excited, we were with Lisa's family - who happens to be one of my closest friends. At one point, I wandered away from the families and looked around for potential climbs and found myself back near a familiar spot where years ago, I sat secluded in order to nurse a hungry baby. I felt some intimacy with the area, with the canopy of trees, stems of grassland and a ground carpeted with seasoned leaves. And of course there was quartzite, that purple sometimes pink, sometimes dark, sometimes mossy, sometimes angular, round, sharp, slopey, yet beautiful-all-the-time-quartzite rock that I love. And all at once, my surroundings coupled with my own family and Lisa's, seemed to fuse together as a real part of my history. And I liked that feeling a lot. So much that of course I documented it (which reminds me of Jack's off-the-cuff comment: "What has social media done to you adults . . .").
Drama in the outdoors
Lisa on something really fun.
So you can tell I'm a novice photographer (I cut off that little crimp Lisa's hand is on . . .)
Hanging out on the cliff
Tom on the project
Lily slaps to the bulge
Making good work on a boulder