by Sara Aranda, notes from a recent trip to Yosemite, Sept 24-Oct 13
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 left for 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 #1 Camalot I’d placed. This is real sequence, not dream. So I removed myself. Down-climbed instead, led up a different, mossy chute.
Sexism in canvas tents.
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.
Falling is a submissive act. 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; before you tie into the sharp end.
I’ve noticed there is no concept of time when I fall. 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 early 2018—can I announce that?).
El Capitan is proof of the Earth folding over me. Me in meadow. Me, no where to be found if you are the sky and I am a fleck of wind.
I like the word meadow.
What is it that I 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 rock falls.
Search and rescue.
How do I honor the dead?
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 surprisingly humble. He is self-conscious about smelling like cigarettes.
Do I ever remember what I look like? No. Only when I look into a mirror do I know. 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 numb hands and bliss. Passing trees. Moon shadows.
Cat eyes, purring paws.
Sleepy, bloody cuticles. (How are cuticles sleepy? One would ask. Are they sentient? In association with the human, yes. Yes they are. This is an example of how poets talk to themselves.)
Imposter syndrome. Imposition. More often self-affliction.
Feet and rock. Vertical rise. Spiritual masochism.
Hot chocolate and coffee (together). Tofu and cheese (one after the other). Nonstop hunger (simultaneous with eating).
My earrings: they are dream catchers and I almost lost them twice.
The bunk bed I slept on. Always the top, where the heat rises.
To many, Yosemite means only the Valley walls. Tourists. John Muir. To me, Yosemite is a place to play and 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 human clash.
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, question my own.
Why can’t we see nature like this? Life is conjoined. A shared Earth condition. Trees are sentient beings and they build labyrinths from the soil of the dead. Feast on the sun. Like black holes. Parasols in the sky. Keepers of light.
Things I carry. Grim reaping. Distilled words. Fractured granite. The way I seek imperfections, rely on them when they are found.
Ultimately, I am left with my pen scratching the paper. And myself, here at this picnic table, the loudest thing of all, a thinking thing I carry; the heaviest weight I will ever bear; the fruit of my soul beneath a mosaic of sky.