Saturday, July 16, 2011

Clinging to the Skin

Untitled I just got back from a day's rockclimbing at the Shawangunk Ridge, an hour north of New York City.

I love climbing.  My skill level seems stuck at "moderate", but as Jeff Lowe said, "The best climber is the one having the most fun."  When you make a difficult move, there is a joyful intensity of focus as your gaze narrows down to the little nubbin where you will - oh, so precisely - place your foot. When you squirm out of a tight place and, with one bold swing, come out into the freedom of the open rock above, it is a kind of rebirth.  And of course the glow of the sunset is reflected in your heart from the high exposure of the topmost belay.

As a climbing team works its way up the buttress, they form a little community, clinging on - through their own skill and mutual trust, and through technology that they have brought with them - to the surface, the boundary between rock and air.

In fact, that is what all of us are doing all the time.  The livable part of our planet is a thin skin, a boundary layer between dead rock and dead space.  Maybe 10 miles thick - that's a generous estimate - compared to the 4000 mile radius of the earth and the over 200000 miles from the earth to the moon, our nearest astronomical neighbor.  We are clinging to the skin of the earth.

It is a scary and joyful place.

Image by Flickr user "prizepony", licensed under Creative Commons

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