“You can leave the draws on, I’ll lead it.” Just saying that was a victory for me. A step in the right direction. The day prior had seen me ordering a new rope, helmet, and belay device. The ambition was there and telling Anna that I would try to lead something not “in my wheelhouse” kept the ball rolling. “If not me who, if not now when” is not a philosophy of mine when climbing. Tying in for a lead on a challenging route while climbing in Sinks Canyon, or anywhere for that matter, is not my modus operandi. I guess I have to start somewhere. My ego is fragile and I was pretty sure this was gonna bruise it.
The late afternoon light cast long shadows across the hilltop ranch. No other cars were in sight as I pulled up to the barn and parked my truck. Recent snow combined with warm temperatures made the driveway slick with mud, an inch deep, covering the frost hardened ground. Halter in hand I slid and slipped down into the pasture to grab a horse. Truth be told, I didn’t have one in mind and Gus was the most docile and because of the socks, I was pretty certain it was him. A little cat and mouse later, I had the halter on him and began the arduous task of separating him from the other four. My slick soled cowboy boots, the mud, and Gus’ unwillingness to leave his friends had me skating around the pasture in comical fashion. Eventually though, we passed through the gate and made our way to the tack shed, with pacing and vocal objections displaying his discontent.
The climb went well enough. Probably not quick, but the pieces fell into place and I clipped the chains via a tenacious series of crimps that, in all likelihood, could have been avoided had I known the beta more intimately. Back on the ground, Anna offers her congratulations: “that might be the first time you have ever sent that.” It felt good both physically and emotionally; there was a desire, an urge. Coming back to Lander in early January I knew I had to have goals, and climbing three times a week was to be one. I might have to succumb to a few days in the gym, but trying harder, being more invested, and having more excitement were things that were needed in my life.
Not unlike the climbing the day prior, horses too were fitting into my goals: ride two times a week. A winter in Lander without goals could easily lead to dark days passing, hibernation, depression. Lots of calm talking, brushing, and patience were instrumental in tacking up Gus. By the time he was saddled, McKenzie had driven in and walked over to say hi. We exchanged pleasantries and she rounded up the other four horses for the evening feeding. Not feeling too much wanderlust, I rode up the slight hill behind the barn to the “arena,” a hard packed sand area the size of an horse arena, but lacking the requisite fence. We wove in and out of cones, trotted and loped, navigated sage brush, and did some pressure and release ground work. Responsive yet distracted by his friends eating their nightly hay, Gus provided an appropriate challenge to this novice.
We moved southwest down the west edge of the arena and circled the round pen. I signaled Gus to stop. The calm had settled in on him and I was feeling more confident. I urged him forward, hoping for some speed and he responded in kind. Until he didn’t. A hard stop, a whiny, and hind legs off the ground had me air bound then down. This was gonna hurt. The ground came up hard and my shoulder impacted the hard sand under the layer of day old snow. A tuck and roll as well as a healthy injection of adrenaline had me back on my feet before I knew what had happened. Gus though, calmly walked off toward the driveway, reigns dangling uselessly at his feet. I held my arm in the position of comfort, coddling the point of impact. Nausea crept into my stomach and I fought it back. I looked around, eyes searching for any witnesses; all was calm and quiet. A slow, jerky walk brought me to Gus’ side, though it was obvious, once again, he wanted to play a bit more cat and mouse. Maintaining the position of comfort with my left arm, I reached up and undid the lead rope’s clove hitch, secured the reigns, then let my arm drop.
The initial movements were stiff, but not impossible. I ran through the normal tests of functionality, passing some, and briefly assessed myself for clarity of thinking and impact to my head or spine. I knew I would have to buy some ibuprofen. And so much for swing dancing that evening… Recradling my arm, I walked Gus slowly back to the barn and untacked him. This was gonna hurt.
Sunday, January 6th was the day that Gus threw a wrench into my plans and ambitions. Now over a month later, I sit on a Sunday evening, contemplating the highs and lows of the past weeks. They were not what I expected, and didn’t really involve climbing or horses at all.
The diagnosis of a probable small tear in my rotator cuff hurts, both physically and emotionally. What to do when my body fails me, doesn’t let me do what I want, what I know, is a good question. I become sad; all challenges seem bigger, highs seem lower and lows do too.
The slow process of healing the body is tacked onto one of healing the heart. While only one would be nice, the added challenge of not being able to loose myself in the function, the physicality, the focus, leaves me with less options. Even house work is painful.
I bide my time, do physical therapy, and rationalize that in all its manifestations, whatever the subject of affection , love hurts.
Featured Image: A wintery day in Sinks Canyon.
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