Another school year behind me, and courtesy of an unusually snowy winter, the first day of summer break also happens to be the first day of summer. No rush this morning as I have breakfast on my deck in the woods, still waiting for Sun to show her face on this longest of days. It feels good to have two days of relaxing and re-centering before Chris Irwin and I get on the road to the Gunks. This will be my first trip there, and the first in a series of trips that we've been planning for months.
I've been thinking a lot in the past week about what drives us. Whatever we're passionate about, it seems to be within our nature to hold up our own subset of skills as somehow superior to those of others. This is nearly unavoidable in the climbing world, as we allow our preferred discipline to become part of our identity, conveniently tucking our weaknesses out of public view rather than confronting them head on. Some of us push ourselves to climb the tallest faces, or the most overhung, or the most delicate, or those hardest to protect. Some set out to repeat every classic climb in an area, while others refuse to climb something that's already been done. Some seek to move as perfectly as possible, and some are forever pushing to tick off harder grades.
While I've always held all forms of climbing to be equally challenging, I'll admit that the grade chasing is something that I've had a hard time understanding. With so many good climbs out there to be done, I felt sad for people who seemingly saw them as nothing but numbers to progress through, or avoided certain climbs because they were reportedly hard for the grade. But recently my view has started to change. They may not be chasing the same things as me, but at least they're chasing something, and the chase brings them closer to their full potential.
For a long time now I've felt fortunate to be surrounded by a community caught up in their own chases. For many it's climbing, whether testing themselves against area classics or wandering the woods in search of the boulder that hides at the edge of their dreams. For some it's music, or photography, or the perfect pastry. For some, the joy of shaping their children's lives. Still others chase a safer or cleaner world, or the understanding brought by inter-cultural experiences. As summer begins, I see friends and family seeking the views from unnamed peaks, preparing for hundred mile runs, kiteboarding in Africa, BASE jumping their way across the country, and in general living those lives that inspire me to push beyond the familiar.
So much inspiration, so much joy in seeing others follow their dreams, and overcoming the things that challenge them. Somewhere over the clouds right now Sun is high, lingering with us before the light again fades toward the restful days of winter. Now is the time to chase the light, to chase those things that make us feel the most alive. Whatever that means to you, may you find joy in the run and loved ones to welcome you home at the end.