The Earth speaks with many different voices. She whispers through the winds, echoes in the canyons, sings amongst the birds, dances beside the moon, babbles with the creeks, and remains stone-silent. On Easter, she roared a gentle message in my face: “RIGHT NOW…you are safe!” Then she hushed, “just wait…with patience and gratitude.” I hear you Grandmother…and thank-you!
Sunday March 30th, 2013, I finally went ice climbing for the first time this season. Since I spent the winter on the BC coast and in California, I’m psyched to see snow and ice in this majestic winter playground. However, most Bow Valley residents were welcoming the warmth of Spring’s first week. I somehow managed to find an ice climbing partner, willing to wake-up before sunrise, so we could get on the ice before the sun would wreak its havoc. When the ice and snow overhead starts to melt, it picks ups speed on its way down the gullies.
We got to Louise Falls just after two others had descended. They mentioned that it was already heating up- small pieces of ice were starting to slowly drop from the curtains. It was only two pitches and the sun was still hiding behind a mountain, so we chose to climb-on! The sound of axes and crampons chipping at the ice was like hearing a favourite song for the first time in ages. It felt nice to have my hands go numb, then embrace the pulsing pain, as the blood sloshed its way back…just so I could experience the bliss of having fingers! Upon reaching the sheltered top of the first pitch, ice began to fall outside the cave I was safely belaying from.
I was in awe of the magnificent mountains of Lake Louise, that never cease to take my breath away. My breath remained steady and strong while ascending the second pitch. I felt energized,as my muscles worked hard to keep me attached to the ice. Water dripped down my gortex jacket and splashed my face, while the sun kept me snug from behind. Dinner plates of ice broke under the hammer of my tools, while searching for the perfect patch to sink them into. As I reached the top of the climb, I noticed the sensation of a familiar grin on my face. “Ice climbing is SOOO much fun!”
In between these lines and the thrill, there was a heavy inner monologue reeking of turmoil and heartache. Adventuring up (or down) a mountain once felt like the ONLY way to achieve this medicinal, nature induced high. Although I felt present with this experience of ascending a frozen waterfall, I missed the stillness and spaciousness of deeply connecting with the land, in ceremony and community. I have been back from my transformative experience in California for just over a week, and the incorporation has been uncomfortable. I long to sit in circles with phenomenal people who embrace the genuine me; I lust for desert winds to mess my hair; I yearn to cleanse with ocean sands; I desire the scent of southern wildflowers to soak into my core. I wanted to bring that all home with me, to the people I care about here. I want us to watch the wounds on our planet heal with grace.
Since I’ve been back, I am deeply observing the pain that we cause the land and each other. I feel harmful patterns seep back into my body and psyche. I am already experiencing doubt about the reality of what I witnessed…with my heart, body, mind and soul…in those vast landscapes, with profound community. I wanted to bring it here, to my “home” lands. Instead, I am running into roadblocks, barbed fences and brick walls- the faster I run the more they hurt! I still get to be outside, playing in these mountains; yet, I am anxious with the reality of my path ahead and saddened with “homesickness” for a far away (imaginary?) place.
I do my best to stay positive and present, as we scramble down to the base of the climb. Feeling hungry, yet satisfied with a great day of climbing, I begin packing my bag beside the beautiful waterfall we just climbed. “Watch out!” I hear as I look up to see large chunks of snow, ice and debris bombing down the line we had been climbing, just 20 minutes prior. We watched the incredible mountain release her build-up of winter, under the rays of the powerful sun. A clear image forms around conception and birth…a creative flow that follows the marriage of life and death. This juxtaposition both numbs and exhilarates me.
It’s taken some time for me to interpret the language Grandmother Earth was speaking to me…and I continue to process it. As the season changes, there is great liberation of what no longer serves. Our human minds have a hard time letting-go, as they cling to our preconceived judgements of what protects us (ie. money, status, comfort). Yet, t is hard to settle when we feel unheld, unloved, unsafe. As the mountain let-off her debris, she exclaimed “RIGHT NOW…you are safe!” So, with patience and gratitude, I will wait…