“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, she finds it attached to the rest of the world.” – John Muir
The ice turned to slush, melted and now it’s pouring into the rivers and streams that I’ve begun to swim in now that it’s 80 degrees outside, a humid 80 degrees. The ice has melted into the lake, Burlington is flocked with people each day the sun shines, and the dry Spring has lead to trails filled with people from the Adirondacks, through the Greens and into the White Mountains. People are outside everywhere after six months of hibernation.
For me, coming up on my third summer in a row, I’m not basking in the sun as it breaks through our thick grey sky. I am smiling as I watch the flowers blossom from the brown ground but other then green trees and colorful flowers the sun doesn’t bring many smiles to me. I feel the warmth of the sun and struggle with imagining months of hot temperatures again, turns out I’m not a summer girl even though I’m about to enter my third in a row. I’m just trying to hold onto Spring for as long as I can, even though it’s 80 out.
As summer comes and I keep reading about snow. Interviewing people who just climbed in Alaska, who suffered in cold temps for days. Somewhere far away it’s not summer. Interning at Alpinist and reading stories of alpinist’s climbing the highest mountains has made me realize how I am truly not a summer girl.
I read all the past issues of Alpinist before I started this internship I got lost in the stories that I read back when I was a freshman year in high school. During study hall I’d run my fingertips across the thick cornered edges of my collection of Alpinist and Rock and Ice that I hoarded in my dorm room at boarding school. I felt like I was 14 again, dreaming, seeing myself in mountains with knife-edges, in valleys where gully’s of steep snow and ice pour towards me, climbing mountains that reach so high my lungs search of oxygen. I re-read stories my idols wrote, read new ones, and felt the mountains come back. I remembered the feeling that made me love climbing and the mountains in the first place. The feeling of being in the unknown.
Working here transports me far away from home each day mentally, I travel back to the high crisp peaks of the Himalaya’s and see new landscapes fold open in my imagination.
Physically, I’m in the state where I graduated high school, lived by myself for the first time, worked for the first time, where I met people who will always be in my life. I’m still in Vermont, the place I grew up and started and stopped climbing. After a year away I’m home in the state that seeps stories from my past from each rock structure that protrudes on the curves of I89, and from the cracks in the Schist at crags I learned to climb.
Vermont is a small state but this summer I’m interning 45 minutes away from Burlington in a place called Jeffersonville. I’m living at home for more then three weeks, which I haven’t done since I was 17. I’m not working in Burlington, which is where I have worked since I was 15. I’m 45 minutes away. It’s a small state and 45 minutes isn’t that far, but right now it feels like hours away from the place I grew up and that’s what I need.
Interviewing people who are exploring the unknown and facing periods of suffering, seeing mountains in their most vulnerable beauty. Landing in a plane on a glacier, looking up at granite walls that they’ve never even seen pictures of. Having to retreat off climbs because they had no idea the actual scale of the thing they were climbing because from the glacier they called home for that week the cliffs looked a lot smaller then up close. Being in a place that they just didn’t know where or not someone had every been there before. That is what I use to dream of.
As life does, it wrestled my imagination and hopes to also explore the unknown and conquered my imagination with reality. A reality I thought was true, that the world is so developed that there is no unknown left, that if there is unknown you have to be super-human to get there. Life wrestled my imagination and won back then but this time, after being dormant for years, my imagination is revived by reading the stories that created these dreams in the first place. It doesn’t matter which one wins anymore, reality or imagination, because life has different reality now and my imagination is invigorated with a new reality. I’m dreaming of snow again, of ice and big mountains. Of going to place that I don’t know if anybody else has been there. I’m living the reality of exploring my backyard and seeing what 45 minutes away has for me.
Summer approaches and the trails near me become more busy, the cold snow-melt rivers become popular and the crags overflow. Places that I use to feel were my spot, my unknown, but as time goes on the knowledge of their beauty is unleashed and brings the masses. These places aren’t the unknown anymore but I’m interviewing people who have been to the unknown and that makes it okay. It makes me appreciate the people in the now crowded places because I know somewhere, probably in Alaska, there is a place I can call my unknown.
For now I’ll smile as the flowers bloom and the blossoming trees ripen green, I’ll cringe with the heat and gaze as the sun sets over the still lake, erupting vibrant colors from the horizon. Being here trying to escape another inevitable summer is okay with avalanches of stories cascading through me; distracting me from the heat.