Tent Life

I live in a tent. I do not live there permanently, not physically anyway, but rather emotionally. I wish I lived in a tent. Tent life is different—it does something to you. It is a way of life that meanders into your soul, liberating you from the gravitational pull of human narcissism. It is like a good book. The kind you read but never place on a shelf. The kind you carry around for fear it might get thrown in a cardboard box, never to be touched again. It is tattered and torn and bent, and its scent is like none other. It is always intellectually stimulating. Tents are the cover of a good book. Not a hardback, for that is too rich, but rather a paperback. A tent gives minimal protection to your physical being because its job is simply to encapsulate your psyche.

I have learned a lot while lying in a tent. It is where I first became intimate with Edward Abbey and learned that Ho Chi Minh was an intelligent man of meager means. I have learned that sometimes what I have been taught is not the truth. I have learned that man lies and I have learned to accept his fate. In my tent I have been afraid, but more often I have felt safe. I have frozen in the winter winds, and I have suffocated in the Utah heat. I have slept on an army cot, air mattress, and rocks. Sleeping on rocks is what I prefer. It is a humbling experience. Many Caucasians, Asians, Arabs, Mexicans, and other humans sleep on rocks—I am no better, and so I have learned to shift often and focus on something more problematic like, for instance, the javelinas now circling my campsite. Their snorting reminds me of the gluttony consuming people these days, a topic into which I will not delve, but instead let serve as a transition into my thoughts about tent people.

For the most part, tent people are a different breed. They are an eclectic group. Of course, within the last five years, even they have become somewhat soft. Five years ago, solar showers hanging from tree limbs and fire-starter bricks were considered luxuries of camping. Today, however, I sit here wishing for ear plugs as my tent neighbors play some Zen rendition of Celine Dion on their battery operated CD player, while simultaneously cooking steaks on their less than portable grill. Too, it is becoming more and more arduous to set up a tent where the humming of a generator does not disturb the natural setting. Nylon and aluminum-alloy are being replaced more rapidly by gas-guzzling RVs and tow vehicles. Similarly, quiet soul-seeking people are being replaced by their loud thrill-seeking adversaries.

I simply want to read with only nature as background noise, but Happy Meal children are running to and fro screaming at one another as they cast stones from the river bed. I decide to cast them as characters in Karnow’s book, but I suddenly feel like the merciless emperor at Huế and I realize it is not their fault, but the aforementioned gluttony that has probably already devoured their parents. Still, I look over at my daughter collecting insects for temporary viewing, and I am thankful that she understands the concept of solitude—at least while in nature. I suppose I have not advanced enough—by monetary means anyway. I tend to be judgmental which I admit, in all reality, makes me a hypocrite. Unfortunately, I cannot overcome that feeling of detest with the current tent yuppies in their SUVs when opposite of me an old yellow school bus with “poor, young, and angry” painted on one side and “ennui” on the other has just birthed a group of tent gypsies. I can relate to their spray painted thoughts. After all, I, too, feel a sense of dissatisfaction with the world as it is today.

It is a saddening experience to have to come home to reality. I have often wondered how people who have been dependent on their tent for months at a time cope with the transition. Even after one week of living in my tent, breaking camp seems equivalent to an eviction. To exile. By then, I have become so accustomed to a lack of amenities that I almost feel guilty when I come home to a mattress and a toilet I do not share with strangers. I cannot remember a time, before today, that I did not cry at the sight of the soil where my tent has left an impression. I cannot remember a time that I did not feel a sense of envy towards the next person to claim my site. But today is different as I sit on the ground writing these words. The tears have settled in my throat causing a feeling of panic in my being. As I look around me, I see the prints of the wildlife that I sometimes fear, and I wonder if I could truly live here. I wonder. I do not cry until the mountains, once serving as my shield, leave my peripheral view and Eddie Vedder’s voice reminds me that the soul that is inside me now is like a brand new friend I will forever know.

I live in a tent. I do not live there permanently, not physically anyway. My soul lives in a tent.


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Today, in some feeble attempt to connect with Lincoln Hall–a mountaineer who almost lost his life on Everest–I tried to fathom the epitome of a meditative state. While attempting to summit Everest in 2006, Hall was left for dead, but miraculously made it off of the mountain while being coerced by Sherpas who were not his own (although the latter is only heresay). What saved his life was his ability to detach via Buddhist practice; desire, it is believed, is the root of unhappiness. Hall, while in and out of consciousness, hallucinated while simultaneously envisioning his family. Now, this may seem simple, something you and I may have done numerous times to deal with pain; however, Hall’s experience was much different, in that, his body physically–not just emotionally–responded to this form of Yoga. As he imagined the nearness of his loved ones, his body temperature began to rise. He began to thaw.

I began to think of all of the trials with which I have been confronted throughout my life. I thought of how easily that pang of bitterness had, at times, consumed me; how easily anger and pity and cynicism had meandered in and out of my life. Then I placed myself on the Hillary Step, meters away from Everest’s summit. I was cold and frostbitten so that my extremities were black with gangrene. My oxygen was depleted and fellow mountaineers, guides, and sherpas walked by ignoring my existence, because really, I did not exist. I was, at that moment, frozen in time. I was Lincoln Hall, except unlike Hall, my soul had been annihilated. Bitterness, anger, pity, and cynicism were symbolic of all of those empty canisters of oxygen that litter Everest. I was empty.

Then, something quite foreign happened. Those ghosts, what some have brushed off as being mere hallucinations, became real. Not in the literal sense, but rather an ephemeral happening. It was then that I had an epiphany. We are all on the brink of death; perhaps not today or next week or even next year, but it is inevitable. The ghosts and the people that Hall saw as he sat literally frozen to the mountainside, were not meant to be physical beings; these were the persona of survival at its greatest. A survival that encapsulates, not only what a passerby might see, but the core of mankind.

Regardless of your religious philosophy, it is the fight of achieving the here and now that really matters. When I was a small child, my great-great aunt had a plaque that hung on her wall that read: Today is the first day of the rest of your life. I would like to believe that those words were among the many visions Hall had the day he descended the grandest mountain in the world.

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Habits, Obsessions, and Superstitions

I have OCD. I have OCD. I have OCD. There, I said it three times, so now my mother’s back won’t break. Wait, that’s a superstition. Not an obsession. And I think a sidewalk crack should have been mentioned somewhere.

I often see the acronym for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder being tossed around by some of my acquaintances to describe habits or superstitions. I keep my mouth shut because I try to avoid confrontation, but for me, OCD is real. It is not something I like to brag about on Facebook just because bleach is a prime commodity in my home. Like water. And Goldfish Crackers.

I remember vividly my first encounter with OCD. It was not me who was cursed by it initially, but my mother. I won’t go into detail about my childhood experience because I don’t have permission to expose those demons (and I use this word, not to represent some satanic entity, but as a metaphor for the disease), but I will say that it was a sad, nightmarish moment in my family’s life. The repercussions of not obeying said demons were more than a simple fear of contracting a germ that causes the common cold. If the laundry wasn’t done (and redone) a particular number of times, or we weren’t bathed to the point that our skin was dried and cracking, something horrific would happen to our family.

I was nearing the end of elementary school when my mother sought treatment. By then, I recognized that something wasn’t normal about my family. Because I was spending more time at my grandmother’s house, I began noticing odd behavior from her as well. She once fell dramatically in her office chair—breathing heavily with her head resting on her hand—after having witnessed me walk under a ladder. One of the first times I remember her yelling at me was when I threw my hat on my bed. And spilling salt forced her to hurriedly pick up granules, and throw them over my shoulder. In her mind, it was possible that I might become a witch, die, or be possessed by an evil spirit lurking over my left shoulder. Her superstitions were just as crippling as my mother’s Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. I was often embarrassed by their actions, but little did I realize I was beginning to exhibit the same behavior, only with different consequences.

By that time, I had already had the short experience in the Pentecostal church that I previously wrote about, so I often attribute my first bit of intimacy with OCD to that. It’s always good to have the ability to blame those who threaten hellfire and damnation to kindergarteners. I will be fair, though, and admit that the culprit very well could have been all those late-night episodes of “The Twilight Zone” I would watch after my grandparents had gone to bed. No, it was definitely the fear of living eternally in a bed of brimstone. Anyway, I remember lying in bed one night listening to the ticking of an old-fashioned alarm clock that sat on my dresser, when I suddenly felt the need to say “I hate the devil.” So with each tick an obsession was borne: tick “I hate the devil” tick “I hate the devil” tick “I hate the devil,” until my body would begin to shake, and I would simultaneously jump out of bed to tuck the clock inside a drawer underneath a stack of flannel pajamas.

As I grew older, new and improved obsessions took over. And when I think back to the pain and humiliation I felt and/or inflicted on those I loved, I get angry at the aforementioned people who use the term so flippantly. OCD is spending ten years as a single mother checking the light switches three consecutive times to make sure they are in the off position (when clearly the lights are not on), and unplugging everything—everything—before you leave the house for fear that it will catch on fire. OCD is not simply making sure the lights are turned off; that is just being economical. OCD is scrubbing each of your daughters’ heads every night with medicated shampoo just because you saw one of them scratch her head. OCD is not simply bathing your children before they go to bed each night; that’s just good parenting. OCD is taking everything out of the kitchen cabinets, moving the refrigerator and stove, and scrubbing the countertops with bleach several times a week because you live near cotton fields and fear a mouse may have come into your home when you weren’t looking. OCD is not simply wiping down your cabinets after mealtime; that’s just not being gross. OCD is thinking that, because you cannot be there to control every situation, your children are destined to become victims of a fire or an insect or Hantavirus. It is real and painful and exhausting.

So before you take a photo of yourself holding a bottle of Pine Sol with a caption that reads “Cleaning the house. I’m so OCD,” you should know that not only do you NOT have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, but your sentence is grammatically incorrect, and it has been said that Pine Sol attracts the Pine Beetle which carries a fungus on its feet. You can check the latter on “MythBusters” if you’d like, but I’m going with it because, well, I have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, and I’m not taking any chances.

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Starting Over

I was going to write “feeling depressed” as my Facebook status this morning, but the icon that accompanied that status only had a frown with a single teardrop, which looked nothing like how I felt. I was looking for more of a cross between Jack Nicholson saying “Here’s Johnny” as he swings a fire axe while chasing his annoying wife, and Forrest Gump crying over Jenny’s idyllic gravesite while telling her how perfect their son (who later sees dead people) is. But, that icon doesn’t exist, so here I am. Writing.

Several years ago, after learning I was not the only wife to my then husband, I filed for divorce and signed up for that little gem known as higher education. At the time, I was working full-time at a supermarket, and coaching tumbling part-time in exchange for lessons for two of my daughters. The other daughter was still attached to my boob like a marsupial, so I bought a breast pump, and checked the box with the words “non-traditional student” printed next to it. For seven years I worked, learned, and read bedtime stories from assigned readings. My children were introduced to literary geniuses whose writings spanned a multitude of genres.

I had it all planned out. I would ultimately assign some of the same books to my students. They would write brilliant, analytical papers that explored Woolf and Joyce, and we would have smart discussions about suicide and symbolism. But alas, I grew tired after seven years, and I was offered a job in another state. Moving away seemed ideal at the time, because I wanted to escape that little town in Texas and the people who had known me since I was “knee high to a grasshopper.”

So with a promise from an administrator (suspicious?), I was told my graduate classes would transfer and I could become a certified teacher through an alternative licensure program. I began teaching seventh grade writing, and less than three weeks later learned that no, my classes would not in fact transfer for the New Mexico certification program. I felt betrayed and angry. In the two years I taught in NM on an emergency license, I never received my certification. In all honesty, I just didn’t have the money to spend on more college courses. My monthly student loan payments were already more than all my other bills combined. I had children to feed. And writing scores to raise.

Three years later I am sitting here typing these words because it’s less pathetic than crying. I am typing these words because I have seven years of college on my transcript with a 4.0 GPA, and I am struggling to find a career that will, at the very least, pay for our health insurance and childcare. I am typing these words because I just accepted a position at a title 1 school where I have led a volunteer tutoring program for three semesters. My salary is less than I made working at the supermarket where it all began, and my self-esteem is somewhat depleted.

I thought I had prepared myself for this, especially after volunteer teaching in Vietnam this summer. After all, those teachers are paid an annual salary of $1200.00. That’s all. Most of them live in huts with dirt floors and walk miles to school each day. But I wasn’t prepared. Regardless of how simple you think you are, it is hard to escape that feeling of inadequacy when you realize your dreams are possibly fictional, much like those novels sitting on your shelf waiting to be analyzed.

Maybe I’ll return to school or attempt a certification program here in the great state of Texas. I have applied for jobs in every market one can imagine, because similar to my daughter who is a sophomore in college, I suddenly feel like I have no clue where my niche is. In a perfect world where there are no bills to pay and college loans are forgiven, I would sit and write all day, and attempt to be as funny as Jenny Lawson and as adventurous as Alex Honnold. But for now, I will step off that ladder I had so eloquently climbed and start over at the bottom. Or maybe I’ll design a new icon. One that’s holding a fire axe.

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Train Ride Epiphany

Last night I had a dream that I was in Vietnam. I was pacing back and forth frantically, worried that I wouldn’t make it to work on time. Crying in frustration over having misplaced my lesson plan, I began yelling at anyone who would listen, although I knew the locals couldn’t understand my language. In some feeble attempt to make myself heard, I began pleading to people in Spanish, but still they just nodded and smiled, oblivious to my words. I walked outside and fell to my knees, exasperated. I felt anxious and angry and resentful. I rose from the ground, worried the mud beneath me might be harboring some sort of parasite that would infest me. And then I awoke.

The train ride to the province of Lao Cai was the most restful of nights during my stint in Vietnam. Recalling a sailboat expedition around the islands of Hawaii when I was twelve, where I vomited profusely while my family mocked my ability to feed all the fish in the Pacific, I made a last-minute decision to take more than the recommended dosage of Dramamine, and my roommate decided to throw in some Melatonin for good measure.

The lull of the train gliding across the tracks, and the rocking back and forth of the car eased me into a peaceful slumber rather quickly. I did awaken around midnight, burning up under the silk sleeping bag I purchased in Hanoi for four American dollars. This was also a last-minute decision I made after listening to some veterans of the trip talk about the thousands of people whose heads and bodies had graced the surface of the mattress and pillow I would be sleeping on that night.

I painstakingly unwrapped myself from the sleeping bag and clumsily fell from the top bunk. The effort to descend gracefully from my perch would take entirely too much time, and besides, I didn’t want to waste the effect the cocktail of drugs I had already ingested was having on my body and mind. After five minutes of struggling to unlock the door to my room, I stepped into the muggy hall of the train car.

In a fog, I bounced from side to side, hitting the windows of the train car and then the doors of my neighbors, but I finally made it to the restroom. I pushed my way past the train attendants, who had been sleeping on the hard, filthy floor, and slammed the door shut, neglecting to lock it. The window was open just above the toilet, so as I hovered over the hole, I could feel the heaviness of the humidity seeping in, and I could see the shadows of the jungle in my peripheral view. Even in the heat that enveloped me in that tiny room, I shivered thinking about all those men in Tim O’Brien’s books. For the first time since I had landed in Vietnam, I felt torn.

As I made my way back up the hallway, I realized I had no idea what room I had come out of. I leaned against a window and pondered my next move. In a fit of desperation, and a desire not to waste my Dramamine/Melatonin high, I began trying to open doors. Surely, I thought to myself, mine would be the only one unlocked since everyone else seemed to be sleeping. But alas I was wrong, and opened a door to find the French backpackers I had seen at the train station lying in their underwear reading. I cursed them for their disregard for door locks, and for being so liberal with their penises. Angrily, I whipped around to find one of the attendants smiling at me.

She asked in broken English if I was okay, to which I shouted “no,” and for some reason (language barrier, perhaps), she immediately began banging on doors. By then it was after 1:00 a.m. After two wrong tries, my roommate opened the door. I didn’t even apologize for waking her. I simply climbed up to my bunk, crawled into my sleeping bag, and cried myself to sleep burdened by visions of dying soldiers and smiling Vietnamese women. At 6:00 a.m., I awoke to my roommate scrambling to get ready. The train would be pulling into Bac Ha soon, and we would not be given much time to exit the train, she informed me.

I jumped down from my bunk, grabbed my toothbrush and a bottle of water, and hurried down the hall to the sink area. I was walking and squirting toothpaste on my toothbrush simultaneously when I suddenly stopped. There she was. That tangled mess of trees and rain and war stories that had sickened me the night before, had transformed into something so surreal that I wept again. But this time I did not weep for the American soldiers of the past. I wept for the women and children of My Lai. I wept for that naked child running up a dirt road in Trang Bang covered in Napalm. I wept at the beauty of the land before me and the history that negated its beauty.

As I stood at one of the windows when the train stopped before entering the station, I watched men emerge from their shanties to begin their day of tedious farm work. Women, with babies tied to their backs in brightly-colored, hand-made baby carriers swept their dirt floors with brooms made of straw. I saw children herding water buffalo with a stick. Toddlers stood knee-high in water in the terraced rice paddies that covered the land before me. What I noticed most was the silence, as if everything my eyes were witnessing was an animated painting.

In my dream I loathed everyone around me, but really I was the only culprit to blame. On the train, I became angry at the naivety of complete strangers, yet I couldn’t even decipher for whom I should feel the most sorry—American soldiers or Vietnamese women and children—when really, neither should be pitied. I realized that recently I have been going through life fretting over my ability to perform perfectly, because for some petty reason, I have felt so imperfect. Yet, for whom was I trying to prove myself? All the other imperfect humans?

In the process of my inability to obtain flawlessness, I, once an avid hiker and lover of nature, had become flawed in my ability to see the perfection around me that was not manmade. As I stood there, I realized that poverty is not simply a monetary burden; it is comprised of many factors that include blinded humanity. As I watched this primitive act of life unfold from the train window, I felt whole again. When the attendant who struggled to understand my pleas the night before walked past me, we exchanged smiles, and I realized that language transcends linguistic understandings. In that moment of silence, a rebirth occurred, not only for me, but for the ghosts within the books I had read and the photos I had seen.

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Just in Case I Die

It’s funny how traveling abroad forces you to get in touch with your mortality.

When I was a kid, I wasn’t afraid to die. In fact, I vividly remember praying that God would let me die before I turned twelve years-old. I was probably nine at the time, but for some reason, I believed that the age of accountability was one’s last year as a pre-teen. When I grew up, I thought that was a very strange conversation to have with God, but it turns out I wasn’t the only kid threatened with fire and brimstone and the eternal gnashing of teeth. A friend of mine said she once prayed that God would turn her into a rock. In all reality, my prayer was much less ridiculous.

As a young adult, death really never crossed my mind. In fact, to this day, I am really unsure how I survived my early twenties. I did some very dumb things. I experimented with drugs, drank excessively, and worked in shady places with shady people doing even shadier things than me. No, not United. That job saved me, but that’s another entry.

I really didn’t think of death again until my grandmother began to die. And my grandfather did die. My grandfather was a healthy man. He collapsed on the golf course, and died a few months later from a brain tumor. My grandmother suffocated for five years at the mercy of emphysema and COPD. She swore until the day she died it was only an allergy. The order of their deaths made no sense to me. I don’t mean that cruelly. I loved them equally. But I began to wonder when it would be my time.

Now, I didn’t really obsess over my own death. I don’t even think I really cared yet about dying. I hiked and camped alone, this time minus the chemicals that made hiking much groovier when I was in my late teens and early twenties. Yes, I used the word groovy. I subjected myself to many newsworthy possibilities, but I was never afraid of the finality of my life. In fact, the likelihood of being lost on a trail, or having to use the hunting knife under my sleeping bag excited me.

Recently, however, I began to fear death. As soon as I learned I was traveling to Vietnam without my family, I started preparing to die. And while that may seem morbid to most, especially my husband, I have suddenly felt an overwhelming desire to organize. I have likened my actions to the nesting phase of a pregnant woman.

Keep in mind I am not entering a country burdened by a current war or high crime rate. Vietnam, in fact, has a lower crime rate than the United States. But for some reason beyond my comprehension, I feel it is prudent that in the event of my untimely death, my family knows where important things are. Like the glue gun. And the Neosporin. In just two weeks, I have organized every single drawer in the house: bathroom drawers, dresser drawers, night stand drawers, refrigerator and freezer drawers, and craft bin drawers. I have organized the pantry, the garage, the closets, and the filing cabinets.

I have ensured that my husband donates my clothes, my bike, and my organs. He must keep Karleigh in a car seat until she weighs eighty pounds. No exceptions. I don’t care if she’s in Middle School. There are things far more embarrassing. He is to never allow Hudson to play football. Ever. Boys have enough mental issues without the help of extra injuries caused from repeated concussions. Berkley must never take dance lessons again. The amount of make-up and hairspray used at a dance recital is, I’m sure, deadlier than Napalm. Aaliyah is to never jump on another trampoline. Ever. Straddle jumps are for cheerleaders, not softball players. I sort of verbally plagiarized that from Coach Weese. I did change basketball to softball, though. Moriah has to choose a major and stick with it. Soon. She will be consistently reminded of the four-year plan. And finally, I have instructed Kevin to never remarry the Rebecca DeMornay hand that rocks the cradle type. My children deserve a mom more like June Cleaver. Or Peg Bundy.

On a serious note, sort of, I am looking forward to my trip to Vietnam. I just have control issues, and being in (on?) an airplane for twenty-two hours somewhat lessens my ability to make my own decisions. I cannot control crazy fundamentalist passengers, deep vein thrombosis, drunken pilots, or engine failure, and that is very unsettling to me. Realistically, though, the odds of my fears are very low, unless you count that episode of “The Twilight Zone” where William Shatner sees a gremlin on the airplane wing. That could totally happen.


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My First Mountain was a Tree

Although I’ve never ice-climbed, I am obsessed with alpinists. That beautiful death dance that they so bravely perform at the mercy of an ice pick and crampons has always intrigued me. I have free-climbed on the red rocks of Utah, and I have hiked many miles across the U.S. But my story did not begin like those heroes of the mountain whose thoughts and words I so voraciously delve into when I’m missing the smell of my tent or the pain on my shoulders from carrying fifty pounds of gear. Living vicariously through such climbers as Lincoln Hall or Joe Simpson or Andreas Hinterstoisser or, especially, the heroic Tenzing Norgay is what forces me with absolute vigor to desire other lands upon which to tread.

If you have ever read a memoir by a mountaineer, you can almost guarantee it will begin, “I was born with an ice pick in my hand,” or “my father took me climbing before I was off the teat.” It’s true. These guys knew about climbing and experienced it first-hand at an age when most of us are just being manipulated into at least not defecating in our pants in public. My story began even later than that. It began at an age when I came to the realization that I loathed school.

I won’t whine about my childhood, for that is meant to embellish the pages of the aforementioned memoir. And besides, I credit instability and distrust for the stability and trust I find on the trail. If I was asked, like most lovers of nature are asked, when I first realized I loved the solitude of climbing and a trail, I can honestly pinpoint that to my seventh grade year.

I was twelve, about to turn thirteen, when I decided school was boring and pointless. I couldn’t fathom how my teachers, after attending school for twelve or thirteen years, could possibly sign up for more school that would teach them how to remain in school educating snot-nosed, dysfunctional children. It made absolutely no sense to me, this person who would later become a teacher herself. I, like many kids who attended the fifth-grade archaeological dig field trip, was going to discover the bones of our ancestors, and live in a tent made from tree limbs and a quilt my grandmother had purchased at an estate sale. I was going to be a vagabond, and no one could stop me.

And so it was a warmish fall day after my grandmother dropped me off in front of the Middle School, that I had what I remember as my first bout of spontaneity. I walked into the school, immediately turned around, and hurried back outside, across the street to my great-great-aunt’s house. Memaw’s health was already deteriorating at the time, but she still lived alone, save for my eldest brother who stayed with her several days a week, and her housekeeper, Rose, who came often to polish, and slowly turn a piss-yellow, Memaw’s ivory tables that her husband brought back from India during WWII.

Memaw never had children, which is why I, to this day, attribute her good hearing (and my inability to sneak in or out of her house) to the lack of fussing and fighting she had to encounter. Besides, if my brother and I so much as thought of squabbling at her house, you could bet Rose would be there waving the metal end of a fly swatter at us as we ducked and giggled and ran away forgetting why were even arguing in the first place.

As you can guess, Memaw heard me sneak in her back door that day. I simply yelled to her that I had forgotten my lunch as I rummaged through her pantry grabbing some Club Crackers and a glass-bottle of Coca-Cola, and ran out the door shouting “I love you,” while simultaneously scouting my hideout for the day. And there it was, on the side of her house, a tree with a perfect layout of limbs. With my backpack hoisted over my shoulder filled with Nancy Drew mysteries, crackers, and soda, I proceeded to climb that old tree up to the roof of Memaw’s house. And for the remainder of the day, I lounged on a portion of the roof that was actually a decorative overhang, canopied by that old climbing tree whose leaves were just beginning to turn and fall. From my hideout I could see the Middle School, and so I watched with a bit of paranoia for the police to come frantically searching for me, the lost girl, but they never did. It was there in that perfect place that I found security while I read the only mystery books I would ever touch again.

And that is where my love of the mountain, her trails, and their solitude was born. A cabin in New Mexico and young adulthood eventually gifted me with explorations that exceeded the flat, dirt-veiled lands of West Texas. I am no Edmund Hillary, and while my story is different from his, he and I and all of those men and women whose love of climbing could not be deterred, whether we were faced with a 200 foot deep crevasse or a system installed in High School that automatically called parents upon one’s attempt at being truant, all hold a high regard for mountains and their ability to provide a love for something that is much deeper than any love a human can give.

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