Can We Talk about Bodies?

Can We Talk about Bodies?

Specifically, being in a woman’s body? For a quick minute?

Growing up is a confusing process, even just physically. One day you know how big you are, and the next your pants are too short and your shoes are pinching at your toes. You begin bumping into stationary things like door frames. It’s easy to take this in stride as a child because, well, it’s happening to everyone else too. I think there’s a misconception that our bodies are static after age 22 or so, or that they should be. No more growing so we’re done, right? There are some obvious cosmetic changes to aging, like graying hair and acquiring wrinkles, but I’m not talking about those. I’m talking about strength and softness, stretching and snapping back, the weird shock of suddenly realizing your thighs feel like sausage inside the casing of your skinny jeans. (Darn skinny jeans! I’m convinced, I’ll admit, that if the world were rid of skinny jeans, every woman over the age of 19 would be a little bit happier with herself.)

Some of these trendy clothes are just not made for a woman’s body. We have hips (“they need space to/ move around in”) and waists, thighs and bellies. Whose idea were low-cut pants?! The seam crosses the midsection of our bellies, a constant cutting reminder – you have this belly. Since beginning yoga, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been able to catch myself sucking in my stomach, just walking around, running errands, anything. Yoga has helped me tune into that unconscious movement and tightness, drawing up and in. How are we supposed to breathe fully, to fully be ourselves when some part of our brain is going, “Suck in your tummy”?

Even women’s clothing seems to be telling us, “Don’t take up space; be small. Be little and dainty and delicate,” like the paper wings of a moth, disintegrating into powder at the light touch of a finger. It makes me so sad when I hear women say things like, “I just want to fit into size x,” or, “I need to get ready for bikini season.” Why let inanimate objects like bikinis and wedding dresses tell you how you should eat and move and live? A bikini won’t celebrate with you; a dress that fits isn’t going to make you an amazing person. You make yourself amazing. You, your mind, your body, your passions, your speech, and your actions.

I don’t want to be small! I’m proud of my climber’s shoulders for pulling me up mountains. I’m proud of the circumference of my thighs for carrying me and my belongings through this wide world. I’m proud of my gut for its astonishing ability to turn CLIF bars and kale and macaroni and cheese and chai tea lattes into fuel. Our bodies tell our stories – not just in scars and stretchmarks, but in muscle and tendon and bone, in white blood cell count and posture and stance.

Now, if only I could find some jeans to fit this awesome body of mine! Your loss, jeans – your loss.

Love to all.

Mountain Vocabulary

Autumn this year is perfectly lovely in Wyoming. It’s been in the high sixties and sunny almost every day these past few weeks. Last weekend Matt and I spent the night in Denver to see a concert, but primarily to buy ALL THE PUMPKIN SPICE THINGS at Trader Joe’s. We left with pumpkin ravioli, pumpkin croissants, pumpkin butter, pumpkin cereal… you get the picture.

While reading Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire over the past few weeks, which takes place in & around Arches National Park in Utah, it occurred to me that there exists an entire vocabulary for the mountains, some of it even distinct to the high altitude – the Rocky Mountains here, the Alps, the Himalayas, the Canadian Rockies. Enjoy the quick vocabulary lesson, and comment with any additional words you find yourself hearing or using!

1. Trailhead – A very good place to start, eh? This is the beginning of the trail, usually next to a road or parking lot, and marked by a sign detailing the  name and mileage of the trail on which you’re about to embark.

2014-10 blog_trail

2. Switchback – If you’ve ever been near a real mountain, you’ve taken a switchback, which simply describes the sharp zig-zagging route a road or trail must take up a steep incline to both prevent erosion and encourage ease of accessibility, for either legs or engines.

3. Tree Line – Quite literally the “line” of elevation at which trees can no longer grow due to environmental limitations like persistent cold, high winds, and lack of moisture. Though typically associated with higher altitudes, actual tree line elevations vary widely by location. In Rocky Mountain National Park, the tree line varies from 10,700 to 11,600 feet above sea level, whereas cool summers in Chile result in a much lower tree line, at around 2,000 to 3,000 feet above sea level. What the tree line really means is excellent sunrise views and terrible thunderstorm conditions.

Matt and I above the tree line below Longs Peak, in the background

Matt and I above the tree line below Longs Peak, in the background

4. Scree versus Talus – [pronounced TÄ-luhs] Scree is loose rock piled up toward the base of a mountain, produced by much rockfall over a long period of time. It is by nature unstable and difficult to walk on. A talus deposit is a large area of scree. They are often used interchangeably, but “scree” is more fun to say.

5. Cairn – [pronounced KAY-urn] Cairns are used to mark trails, especially in places (like scree fields) where other trail markers, such as colored plastic stapled to tree trunks or spraypaint, is difficult. Cairns are just stacked towers of small stones to guide you on your way.

A cairn + a large stick toward the summit of Medicine Bow Peak in Wyoming

A cairn + a large stick toward the summit of Medicine Bow Peak in Wyoming

6. Summit – The highest point of any distinct mountain is its summit. Sometimes you can reach summits just by hiking without any technical equipment, but oftentimes roped climbing is required. Matt believes no hike is complete unless a summit was reached.

7. Couloir – [pronounced KOO-lawr] Often filled with scree or snow, a couloir is the steep ravine-like feature on a rocky mountain, or between two such peaks. Many backcountry skiers (and snowboarders) talk about skiing down couloirs, which I regard as highly technical and challenging!

Two couloirs can be seen to the left of this photo, in the Snowy Range Mountains

Two couloirs can be seen to the left of this photo, in the Snowy Range Mountains

8. Belay – [pronounced buh-LAY] In a rock climbing context, this is when the climber’s partner is controlling the opposite end of the rope, primarily to catch the climber (via the rope and a metal belay device) should he or she fall.

Me belaying my brother Ben up a climbing route in Medicine Bow National Forest

Me belaying my brother Ben up a climbing route in Medicine Bow National Forest

9. Anchor – At the top of a rock climb or pitch (see below), a climber can build an anchor out of specialized climbing protection gear, or can utilize a fixed anchor, if available, which usually consists of two drilled bolts in the rock, and maybe some other metal gear, like chain links or steel carabiners.

10. Pitch – Climbing routes can be single pitch or multi-pitch. A pitch describes a portion of the vertical length of a climbing route in which a typical 60-70 meter climbing rope can be used. For example, if you are looking to complete a 50-foot rock climb, that would likely be a single pitch route, since you can easily use a 60m climbing rope to reach the top and be lowered back down to the group through an anchor. If, however, you are looking to ascend a 2,000-foot mountain, there will be numerous pitches. Between each pitch is an anchor point so that the first climber can belay the second climber up behind them, and on and on.

11. Rappel – [pronounced rah-PEHL] “Rapping” for short, this is a technique many climbers use to descend from the top of a pitch or climb. Firefighters, military personnel, and other emergency workers also rappel to travel down steep terrain quickly. Usually the person rappelling wears a harness of some kind and attaches a metal rappel device to both the harness and the rope to descend.

12. Glissade – [pronounced gliss-AID] If you’ve reached the summit of a snowy mountain and you need to quickly descend, one option is to glissade, which is just a fancy word for sliding on your butt down a snowfield. If the sliding gets out of control, simply use your handy ice axe to dig into the snow over your shoulder, thereby creating friction and slowing your descent to a comfortable pace.

Get outside this weekend, even if there aren’t any snowfields or talus deposits near you! Love to all.

There Are Still Leaves!

Dear reader, I admit to taking a month-long hiatus from this blog, in case you hadn’t noticed. So, Things That Have Happened:

We’ve been in Wyoming for over a year now, which is hard to believe. (We’ve survived!!) My car was inoperable for over a month, Abe got diagnosed with hypothyroidism, Matt’s back in school, I’m taking a class at the University of Wyoming this semester – you know, the usual.

Back when it was decidedly summer, on a solo hike up in the Snowy Range (on the way back from this, my car broke down the first time)

Back when it was decidedly summer, on a solo hike up in the Snowy Range (on the way back from this, my car broke down the first time)

The weather has been surprisingly terrific these past few weeks, aside from the two times it’s snowed. Don’t worry, the second time it didn’t even stick, but it still zapped my zucchini plants. The grass is staying green, and there are still leaves! Up in the mountains the aspen have lost their leaves to the wind, but here in the valley all the deciduous trees are a shimmering yellow. Even some of the hollyhocks and rosebushes are still blooming, which is hard to believe.

I just can't get over the beauty of these mountains

I just can’t get over the beauty of these mountains

The Snowy Range is quite snowy right now, as I can see from town. Walmart has sold out of all its chrysanthemums, and pumpkin season is in full swing. I triumphantly wore shorts under a dress today, which is almost not cheating.

I call this one, "Pumpkins in Love," obviously

I call this one, “Pumpkins in Love,” obviously

Mostly it’s the little things right now. Last night I roasted a goat leg for the first time (oregano, garlic, crushed red pepper, white wine). I’m forcing myself to write more, which really means I’m just writing poems titled ridiculous things like, “Wasabi Peas Say No to Complacency.” We try to get outside and/or go climbing every weekend. Last week I upgraded and bought a real ski jacket, which feels a little like over-commitment. Does this mean I have to actually wake up early to go skiing this winter? Do I have to try the black diamond runs now? Do my skis need to get “tuned up” or whatever? So long as I can still order the hot chocolate with whipped cream and rainbow sprinkles every single time.

Why do I bother raking in a state famous for its wind? Because grass that's still GREEN!

Why do I bother raking leaves in a state famous for its wind? Because grass that’s still GREEN!

It’s easy to get complacent (to which wasabi peas would say, “NO!”) about the nice weather we’re currently having. In North Carolina, I was complacent about nice weather because the weather was almost always nice, so it became acceptable to spend a perfectly sunny Saturday morning inside eating oatmeal and watching Netflix, because odds were the next Saturday would be lovely too.

Abe is always complacent

Abe is always complacent; it’s kind of his lifestyle

I remember a bouldering trip Matt, our friend Kyle, and I took in the winter. The Winter. In the mountains of North Carolina – Rumbling Bald, to be exact. I wore my down jacket and a hat, and it was excellent. We stayed in a motel (you know, because it was “cold”) and borrowed a bizarre and murderous movie from the front desk that scarred us all for life. Bouldering here in the winter is out of the question unless you don’t mind packing in a broom and shovel to dig out enough room around the boulder for your crash pad, but there are many other adventurous options, such as cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, and snowshoeing (see my post about the Poker Run).

And, if all else fails, there’s always our sweet little house to keep us not-cold and not-windy.

Just before sunset, the golden hour

Just before sunset, the golden hour

Love to all.