Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Climbing Rocks.

My fingers are very angry with me tonight. I've subjected them to unusual punishment because something has recently come over me that I can't quite describe. I've discovered rock climbing. I dabbled a little bit in college and then dropped it altogether for about four years. I went to a local climbing gym in October and the next thing I knew, I was buying rock shoes and a membership to Sport Climbing Center.

Climbing gets in your blood and once it's there, you're toast. Every day brings a new challenge, and it's hard. Mental discipline, the fear factor, and strengthening my stick arms have all been part of the package. And in the car on the way to climb, I select the right music and then start mentally going through the problem I'm currently working on. It's weird. And sometimes I don't sleep well because I'm climbing in my head. It's embarrassing... sort of.

The best part of all is that it's a sport surrounded by comrades. You have no enemies, only friends. I came in knowing nothing and looking like a fool. Now I know a lot more and have a dozen personal coaches who, once upon a time, started exactly where I started. And what's not to love about a place that pushes you forward while supporting and encouraging the whole way? Worth its weight in gold.

Gym chalk, sore fingers and toes, and the downtown Mountain Chalet have all become familiar over the last two months. And I happen to live in The Wild Colorado, home to some of the best climbing in the country. It's going to be a fun year.

Insane, Chris Sharma. Insane.

Almost more remarkable than the climbing is the life application, particularly to my Christianity. The most obvious would be the rock itself. Need I say more? All throughout Scripture, God is compared to a rock, a refuge, a fortress. He is solid, sure, and steady, able to support all my weight. When I approach the rock correctly and move the way I've been taught, I can finish the climb. Also, you climb the level at which you are able to climb. Beginning climbers generally can't complete or even start advanced climbs. But they can watch advanced climbers and learn by observation and by working on the climbs that are, to them, challenging but manageable. In the same way, we will never be asked to face something in life for which we are not capable of handling. And of course, there's the comradery. No one can do this alone. On a difficult climb, you need a spotter. On a first climb, you often need someone who's climbed it before to tell you how to do it and watch you as you go. It's the best way to improve.

And the last application to life: you can't always explain why. Someone asked me if I get bored climbing. I didn't know how to answer. Someone asked me what I like about climbing. I fumbled my way through an explanation. You can't force someone to get it, or to like it, but you know with everything in you that it's something you can't get enough of.

I confess, climbing has cut into my writing time. Seriously. I love both, so we're just going to have to work something out here.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

An Island Debrief

From my front door in Colorado Springs, travel 3,281 miles SouthWest and you'll land on Maui, a strange and wonderful land of tropical birds, fish, and all things green. Last Christmas my parents announced that this year's Christmas gift was a family trip to Maui, so I packed my little duffel bag and climbed aboard the tiny regional jet for the first leg to Los Angeles International Airport. I've never seen people so happy to be on a crowded jumbo jet as they boarded our full flight from L.A. to Kahului. I'd like to thank Zac Efron for our mid-flight entertainment. And the friendly travelers who gave a loud cheer when we hit the runway.

The moment you step off the plane, you can feel the balmy air and see your hair start to curl. Instead of walking, people meander (including the locals). We drove half an hour to our hotel and hit the beach. This is my third trip to Maui, and the clear, warm water astounds me every time. It is, in a word, perfect.

Remember those goals I mentioned? I did my best to meet them all, except the Hawaiian history part. Once I got there, I lost all motivation and instead found myself studying present-day Hawaii via people-watching.

My older brother, Matthew, is a snorkeling fiend and because he was so enthralled I decided to see what all the fuss was about. Last time I snorkeled, I freaked. All I could focus on was breathing through my mouth. I generally prefer my nose. And then there are fish -- schools of them -- that could attack at any moment. This time, I pushed through the awkwardness and now I could do the mouth breathe in my sleep...and I probably do. And as for the fish, they're rather friendly. One little striped guy followed me around like he was my tour guide and I saw creatures that looked more like baseball bats than animals. The reef was lime green, soft pink, and all sorts of shades in between, and the light reflecting through the water fancies everything up. With all the colors, creatures, shapes and light, it feels other-worldly and for a brief moment I lived in it.

Hawaiian food is fresh and tasty. Banana-Mac Nut French Toast, Macadamia-Encrusted Mahi Mahi, and Fish Tacos were some favorites. The food situation is as you would imagine, relaxed. Servers are in no hurry to get you out. On the contrary, many became friends. At the Kihei Caffe, owner Bunny Allison sat down at the patio tables with some of her guests and visited with us for most of our meal. She told us a couple jokes, about some miracles in her family, how she loves this cafe, and prayed for my brother and sister-in-law's new marriage. Braddah Hutts is on the other side of the island in Hana, and it's planted in the owner's front yard under a white tent. Three long folding tables, a few coolers, a grill and a homemade sign put them in business. And they're hoppin'.

The Road to Hana in an electric blue Mustang convertible was perhaps the most memorable of all. Hairpin turns, waterfalls, tunnels of trees, and cliffs plunging into the sea were all part of the 48 mile drive. We stopped often because you can hardly help yourself. It's so beautiful. Don't tell anyone that I told you, but when you go, look for Nahiku Road. It's a small, secret turn off that will take you down to the ocean, right to the place where the waters crash together from all directions. Black lava rock shoots out of the crystal, foaming water, in just the right place so the waves hit the rock and spray high in the air. That was the only place I really never wanted to leave.

It was all so wonderfully relaxing, and now it's time to come back and join everyday life again. Hello, mountains.
A joyful reunion {one of those "in the moment" photos I was hoping for}

Kihei Caffe

Bunny Allison, owner of Kihei Caffe

Makena Bay
View from the front door of our room
View from the balcony of our room

beach time

Scrumptious Banana-Macadamia nut French Toast

Pure beauty

Braddah Hutts menu: whiteboard and paper plates

Tunnel of trees

Clear water

Beach hats.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Away to Paradise We Go

Try as I might, I can think of nothing else to write about than Maui. That's right -- that island paradise with perfect blue water and soft, sandy beaches. It's on my mind because I've just finished packing my bags and will be on a plane to Maui first thing tomorrow morning. My family is celebrating Christmas early and hoping to be there in between the holiday crowds.

The timing is perfect. Do you ever put thoughts "on hold" if you know you're going away soon and can process everything then? That's what I've done, and I have a large backlog of thoughts to sort through, and some killer books to read. Hopefully this will mean some good writing for me.

Some goals for the trip:

- Take good photos in the moment. Why good? Because mine generally aren't, and I'd like to get better. Why in the moment? Because those are often the best kind, and they're much more engaging to look at later than single file smiles.

- Take good video footage. Same reasons as above.

- Make an island friend or two. I've been to Maui twice before and have not made a local friend yet. That's a problem. One of the best parts of traveling is meeting locals and hearing their stories. And they usually tell you some insider secrets that guidebooks don't share.

- Run on the beach. A lot.

- Learn a little bit more about Hawaii's history.

- Get over my fear of snorkeling. Perhaps the fear is more the "nothing in-between" me and the strange sea creatures. It gives me the heebie-jeebies.

- Kayak in the sea.

- Write all these adventures down!

Come back in a week or so and I'll be posting about the trip. If I'm lucky, I'll get to blog some while I'm there, but I make no guarantees. Until then, take good care of the mainland!