I suppose it was the black and white picture of Yvon Chouinard, ‘Sorting Out’ on page 2 of Glen Denny’s Yosemite book that did it.
Chouinard, a man with a young man’s frame, all cut and defined and wearing a young man’s face of smooth unwrinkled hope, balanced a young man’s head full of blond-surfer-sun-bleached-hair on-top of a strong young mans shoulders. Chounard is crouched, and all laid out in-front on a dirty white tarp dappled with shadow are pitons, and oval karabiners, and bongs and chocks and RURPS. Honest innocent energy bursts from the paper of the picture. A different life for the taking. For the living.
The sun is catching Chounard’s left hand, it looks white and chalked and his fingers holding a lost arrow look strong. Dextrous. Un-nobbled. Unaffected by age and arthritis.
Time is short.
Warren Harding, on page 18 and 19 of Denny’s book – grizzled, gnarl – looks with wise creased eyes that have seen and pulled on a thousand thin leaf like flakes. Eyes that have seen and fingers that have touched a thousand – sharp, flat, in-cut, disappointing, surprising, pleasing, never-been-touched-before – granite edges. Eyes that recognised a thousand rock-overs even before the rock-over was recognised and below those eyes, is a stubbled cheek that has pressed close to warm granite a thousand times, two thousand, three thousand times.
More than a thousand sunsets, more than a thousand dawns. More than a thousand dreams. Harding’s knowing eyes have seen.
Hair is tussled, a mop of unkempt. Whiskers are long and grey. Fading energy. Pain. Life. Longing. Losing the battle. But refusing to bow-out gracefully.
My birthday is tomorrow.
Tides come-in, go-out, come-in.
And most important is to fight like Harding and not to get washed-up like life’s driftwood.