Friday, 30 March 2012

The Yearning

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had The Yearning…

Starting off as a passing thought, it seems innocuous enough. Usually triggered by a sunny morning or a glimpse of something on TV, caught out of the corner of the eye as I pass in a cafe or bar…

    “I fancy a climb”

It’s easily dismissed at this point, life’s distractions quickly intervene and it’s business as usual. Except that subconsciously it’s not. The seed has been planted; The Yearning begins.

The next day it pops up again, only this time it’s bigger – harder to dismiss. It’s not even prompted, it just shows up out of the blue:

    “I wish I was in the mountains.”

And it sticks around, I dwell on it for a minute or two – imagining fresh dew on grass, cool air cut by morning sun and the crag appearing through trees as day begins to break. Birds sing, all is quiet. Each footstep builds the silence; the proximity of the noise emphasising the vast calm that lies beyond… Suddenly the daydream is shattered – reality calls, all thoughts of tranquillity quickly stuffed down into the back of the mind. But before long it’s back, every few hours now – and the dwelling lasts longer.

Day three is when things really start to go South. Reality is no longer the rule; replaced by the feel of cool rock against chalked fingers, cold metal greeting a hand as gear is pulled from loops, the scratching signature of aluminium on sandstone and the nut finds it’s mark. The weight of the rope, the snap of a gate sliding closed. Fleeting moments of clarity punctuate the delirium but it’s already too late. All is lost… A growing emptiness wells up inside.

    “I’ve gotta get out. I need to get back to the mountains.”

Eventually I’m reduced to what I call “Half Jam”. Half Jam can’t function the way normal Jam does. He’s compromised. He forgets things – pin numbers, meetings, car keys, his name… He is consistently late. When engaged in conversation his mind wanders, eyes glaze over and mouth falls slightly ajar. Half Jam thrashes at the plastic holds on the indoor wall. Technique evades him as he climbs more forcefully, more angrily in a desperate attempt to sate The Yearning. But it doesn’t work… It never will. There’s only one cure for The Yearning:

White, fluffy clouds roll across the deep blue sky. The wind plays in the trees, snatching up leaves and carrying them away. Rope hums through an aluminium loop and somewhere below steady breathing is interrupted by grunts of effort. Hexes clang like cowbells as the second’s rack sways in time with each movement. The day is nearly done – just a short walk and a long drive separate this moment from food and sleep. But something has changed inside; gears shifted, a timer reset?

    “Nice one mate, you made that lead look easy”

And The Yearning is gone again.

James Carpenter

First published on Climbing Australia