by Sara Aranda, notes from a recent trip to Yosemite, Sept 24-Oct 13
Yosemite Notes: The cracks in my skin and the chalk that settles there, skin woven, white lace over burning sand. These are the things I’ve remembered, among things I carry, ephemeral as the action of having written them down:
A bite into a pine needle, like chili and lime, and the spit I offered to the dirt.
Grilled cheese with zucchini.
My right knee. Its oscillating pain.
My thinness and the correlating confidence. Dangerous logic.
How I dreamt of pulling apart a granite wall, tumbling dust onto those below, a veil of great entropy—raining all but my blown and clotted humanness.
A premonition I thusly avoided: the way the entire body-length flake flexed when I lightly tugged on the piece of climbing gear I’d placed. This is a real sequence, not dream. So I removed myself. Down-climbed instead, led up a different, mossy chute.
Sexism in a canvas tent: “Wives and girlfriends make men weak.” Their words are careless, apathetic, unintentional, and their words are a reflection of their lives.
Climbing: our ability to peruse mental states, from fear to confidence, practiced like the licking of envelopes before creasing edge into finality—it was empowering to choose; to then succeed as a result of choosing to succeed (maybe not always the case).
Falling itself is a submissive act, no matter how you arrive to it. I attribute it to a roller coaster. You are the passenger, slung with gravity. Submission is all that is inevitably possible; any over-weighing choice happens before you crawl into the seat.
I’ve noticed there is no concept of time when I fall short distances. There’s so much in the present, my mind is actually absent. Simultaneous gathering and a letting go. This is a theme in my life right now. My entire Wind River essay is about this (which will be published in Alpinist 62, spring issue—can I announce that?). Headrush.
El Capitan is proof of the Earth folding over me. Me in meadow. Me, nowhere to be found if you are the sky and I am a fleck of wind.
I like the word meadow.
Questions. What is possible to carry?
Aching heels, swollen fingers: My right pointer finger went numb from a finger lock. It feels like crusty dead skin so thick you’d have to peel the entire finger away.
The recent rock falls. Dust and rubble across the road. Scarface. Over 1300 tons.
Search and rescue. Man saves his wife by shielding her. Broken car windows. Another man hit in the head from his car’s sunroof.
How do I honor the dead?
Self-value. Intention. Compassion.
There is a man named David and he carries a pedestal for his ego.
How do I laugh at these men?
I met Jimmy Chin. He had dinner with us and we all sat on the floor eating nachos. He was humble. He was self-conscious about smelling like cigarettes.
Timmy O’Neill. Is funny. Rallies those around him. Except for the house cats. They sleep and lounge when and where they want.
Do I ever remember what I look like? No. Strange to say: only when I look into a mirror do I hold an image. Otherwise, I am faceless body. This is a metaphor for my dysmorphia. An explanation as to why I perceive others over myself.
But I do love my biceps.
Sun bleed/sleep/strain. Skin. Ancestry. Ancestral sun skin.
Cats and turning leaves.
Frozen hands in the morning: when I ride a borrowed bike with a squeaky chain. The noise is now synonymous with words like numb and bliss. Passing trees. Moon shadows. Royal Arches.
Cat eyes, purring paws. I’ve mentioned cats already.
Sleepy, bloody cuticles. (How are cuticles sleepy? One would ask. Are they sentient? In association with the sleepy human, yes, maybe. This is an example of how poets talk to themselves.)
Imposter syndrome. Imposition. More often self-affliction.
Feet : Vertical rise. Rock : Spiritual masochism.
Hot chocolate and coffee (together). Tofu and cheese (one after the other). Nonstop hunger (simultaneous with eating).
My earrings: they are metal dream catchers and I almost lost them twice.
The bunk bed I borrowed. Always the top, where the heat rises. Close to coffee. Too close to friends: where you wonder whether you being there for two weeks is preventing them from having sex. Or peace of mind.
To many: Yosemite means only the Valley walls. “Look at all the walls!” Tourists. Two-dimensional John Muir. Climbing. Hiking. Something about attractions and lazy rivers. Terrible food. Bitter customer service woman (me).
To me: Yosemite is a place to die. To hate, to love. It is a fractal. Small things (individual pine needles) through consequence over time, representing incomprehensible scale (the Sierra Nevada mountains/life/death). It is where all facets of humans unfortunately clash. Have clashed (colonialism). Will continue to clash (conservationism).
To many, and myself: Yosemite is a place to play. Encounter the outdoors via convenient levels of interaction. Like parking at the foot of a crag.
If you cause traffic because you stop your car to snap a photo of a deer, I will bike on by with laser beams of judgment. Bike bells are the best: Out’a the way, fu*&ers.
Love and hate. Elitism. Alienation. Access issues. Localism. Cliques. Alcoholism.
Did you know there’s a jail in Yosemite? And a judge? What does this have to do with climbing?
Eliza, Sandy, Dawa, Audrey, Blair—these women. Friends. Climbing partners. How we trust our lives to those we love. We must. Life is conjoined. A shared human condition. Without them, I’d probably stare at cairns, wish for their creator, never question my own (what?).
Why can’t we see nature like this: Life is conjoined. A shared Earth condition. Trees are sentient beings and build labyrinths from the soil of the dead. Feast on the sun. Like black holes. Parasols in the sky. Keepers of light. Friends. Artists.
Things I carry? As in: I’ll never stop?
Grim reaping. Distilled words. Fractured granite.
The way I seek imperfection, rely on them when they are found.
Ultimately: I am left with this pen scratching the paper.
This place. This place. This place.
And myself, here at this picnic table, the loudest thing of all. A thinking thing I bear. The self—always permeating into the heaviest weight we will ever know: a mosaic of sky we can never keep.