The poetry of mountain climbing

Here’s Peter McFadyen guest blogging for Life Support on his poetry of mountain climbing.  Love adventure?  Peter does.  

Mountain Climbing is now one of the joys of my life (and for those grammatically inflexible amongst us; yes I do realise that I have capitalised “Mountain Climbing” but that’s how I pronounce it in my mind).  Once I had recovered from climbing Mt Meru and Mt Kilimanjaro to the extent that I was no longer adamant that I’d never climb again, I began to look into the changes that I had discovered in myself since the climb. 

I found increased levels of self-confidence, an inherent trust in my ability to take on challenges and do well.  I found the yardstick against which I measured challenges to have grown taller, making any challenge I now came up against seem that much smaller.  I was also much more comfortable with being uncomfortable and so my resilience and ability to persevere were greatly increased.  This is a very pleasant way to live life and I found that many of my previous peaks and troughs were now smoothed out by the personal growth and awareness I had gained by taking on challenges and seeing how my actual experience matched my expectations on how I’d go.          

Man climbing ice Something changed – I was part of the mountain and it was part of me.

Something had fundamentally changed in the way I viewed the world and the way I viewed myself and my place in it.  This was not by the way of increased ego, or a superman complex, but more in an increased sense of myself, my place in the world and an ease of living that was borne of experience.  In short, I was happier being me and more confident that I could make a worthwhile contribution to the planet – albeit in a small way.   I also knew that when it came right down to it, I could push myself to achieve and that I would enjoy the experience no matter the effort required. 

Another joy of my life is poetry.  I love reading it, I love discovering new verses and finding the message within them and I love writing it.  Consequently I have a love of the ‘notes’ area on smart phones as I will often be doing something and a phrase will pop into my head.  From discovering that phrase I will normally have a fully formed poem a few minutes later.  I’m not sure how that works and at times I believe that I am just a way of the poem coming to life rather than having ‘created’ it myself. 

In this instance I was driving along a back road and saw a mountain peak in the distance.  Rather than just thinking “Wow that’s pretty” or “I wonder what that’s called” my thoughts immediately ran to “I wonder how I’d climb that?”   What?  Why that thought?  I realised that, having climbed a mountain, I was in some respects a ‘mountain climber’ and my view of the world had changed.  I then thought, “having climbed a mountain” – I could do something with that.  And so the following poem came to life:

Having climbed the mountain

Having climbed the mountain, there can be no “un-climbing”

Your view of the world is forever changed

You have outgrown yourself to be there

And having outgrown, you no longer fit into your life as you once did.

Having climbed the mountain, you have made the sacrifice

You have left something on the mountain

You have carried something away with you

You are no longer the person who commenced the climb

Having climbed the mountain, there is now a question

Each time you see a peak, you ask “How would I climb that?”

These may be physical peaks or challenges of the heart and mind

All peaks must be met, just needing time and devotion to task,

Turning from a peak is no longer in your being

Having climbed a mountain there is now a void

A challenge waiting to be met,

A dissatisfaction with your old path or any easy path

An ache to once again go beyond

Having climbed a mountain there is now a choice

To turn your back on what you have become, or

To embrace the fear of knowing that you can go beyond

And in doing so, bring the mountain into your being.

View from mountain top We all have our mountains to climb – and when we do the view is amazing

We are all capable of ‘climbing the mountain’ – of moving outside our comfort zones.  It is here that growth occurs; the benefits of which can last a lifetime if we choose. 

What mountain is waiting for you and what can you do to ready yourself to climb it?  What will you leave behind and what will you take away?   I hope you have the opportunity to find out soon.   

“Let your life be your message” Mahatma Gandhi

Right of Way – A Pilgrim on the Camino – Episode 2

“You don’t choose a life, you live a life”.

It’s what Daniel says to his father as he leaves for the Camino de Santiago in Spain in the movie The Way. I love the movie and I’ve seen it about half a dozen times over the years.

I know it’s a movie and I know some of it wasn’t filmed on the Camino, but I also know that the producer nailed it with some of the storylines. I know because I’m here on the Camino and I’m seeing it happen.

The movie revolves around the concept of a Camino family forming from 4 strangers walking. I’d heard of Camino families forming in the first few days of walking the Camino.

I’ve found that each day brings new experiences on the Camino. Each day seems to offer so much that I feel no other day will compare. And then the next day arrives and shows me that there is more the Camino needs to show me, more love I need to feel, more experiences I have the opportunity to absorb, more opportunities for me to know myself more intimately.

I left Australia on this journey not intending for a moment that I would become part of any Camino family. In fact, I was going to try to avoid it. I expected my Camino journey should be about time alone, walking in silence, pondering my life, my strengths and weaknesses and letting myself hear my soul.

And then I found myself, 12 days in to this journey, with 7 other pilgrims from all over the world in an apartment in Logrono.

I had found myself with my Camino family. The one I said I didn’t need, didn’t want. Eight of us – 3 Irish, 2 Americans, 1 Aussie, 1 Dutch and me, aged between 17 and 65 years.

We had been together for the most part of the previous 12 days and were here sharing an apartment for two nights and having a rest day.

Two pilgrims had cooked us all a wonderful meal, we were drinking a lovely Rioja wine, laughing and enjoying the experience.

The evening was a standout for me, and was topped off by the 8 of us, big fans of The Way movie, sitting together, eating popcorn and watching the film on the apartment’s TV.

Tears came readily and surprisingly for me during the movie. It wasn’t the movie so much, more the emotions that snuck up on me while watching it there, in that apartment, with my Camino family, each of us on our own journey along the way.

I cried for the effort it took to get here, for the friendships, for the passing of time, for my loved ones back home. I cried in gratitude that I could make this journey and that I was allowing the journey to provide for me. I cried at the thought of losing my Camino family as the weeks went on. I cried at the thought of the journey not being as I had expected. I cried because I was so damn happy and grateful that there seemed no other way to express my emotion.

10 days ago, these people were complete strangers. Today, they are my Camino family.

The Camino family I never wanted. And the Camino family I will soon walk away from.

And I suppose that’s the point of it all isn’t it.

Sometimes you don’t get what you want, you get what you need.

The Camino provides.

Ultreya

“Let your life be your message” Mahatma Gandhi