Day 52. Sometimes when it feels like you have a mountain to climb, it can be therapeutic to climb a mountain. Lyndon and I start by going for an innocent walk in the park. That’s the plan. In the middle of the park there’s a massive rock. One of those gargantuan glacial deposits. There’s fencing around the edges at the top to stop drunks falling. And fencing around the edges at the bottom to stop idiots climbing. We look at it. We look at each other. That’s all it takes before we’re hacking our way up a runoff trench towards the fence. “How do you think we get through the fence?”
The thing with being in the middle of a city is you’re never going to be a pioneer. We are walking over discarded Twinkie packets, condom wrappers, flattened cans, water bottles, tissues. But before long we are at the base of a high rock. Someone has neatly cut a rectangle out of the fence with bolt cutters, and folded back the sharp bits. We are under in no time. We look up at the rock. It looks pretty sheer. It IS pretty sheer. It’s a vertical rock. But there’s a guy at the top. “How do we get up?” We shout. “That way. But it may be too hard for you.” I’m in skinny jeans that restrict my legs. I have a hat on that restricts my vision, and glasses. I’m wearing a nice watch. My walking boots are like two big rubber bricks on my feet. But this is red rag to a bull. “We’re fine.” I lie. And we go the way he’s pointing.
It’s hot. After a while we just make an arbitrary call. “Shall we just go up here?” It doesn’t look promising. But none of it has. And we are on a mission.
I’m not twelve any more, but I’ve always loved climbing. And fear is something that, for better or worse, only tends to afflict me in social situations. This is no problem, I tell myself. I’m climbing a metaphysical mountain, so it makes sense to conquer a literal one. By the time I am halfway up, I’m in a very different headspace after having lost my feet to these damn boots a couple of times, utterly regretted my hat and watch, got myself covered in dust, and taken the skin off my hands. I stop on a ledge and realise my legs are shaking. But it’s beautiful. We sit in a natural recess and admire the view. “I wonder what made this recess,” we peacefully muse. The answer is all around us. Bees. Bees dug our happy little resting place out of rock over millennia. They don’t seem too pissed off yet. My parents told me I was allergic to bees. My parents told me a lot of things, so I have no idea if I am or not. I don’t want to find out when they start ganging up on me. So on one side there’s a big drop, on the other there’s a load of bees, my legs are still a wobbly and I’m in stupid shoes. Thankfully I know that bees are totally chilled so they aren’t a concern. I love that this is their mountain. I imagine the intricate passages of the bee maze they have dug over so long, so vast that they can abandon our little perch when the wall caves in. I’ve got hands. There’s a route, of sorts. You can tell because there are crampons hammered into it. “I hope there’s a path at the top so we don’t have to get down the same way,” Lyndon says. I am in full agreement. I end up using crampons as emergency handholds. I’d never be stupid enough to stop and take photographs.
By the time we get to the top we feel like we’ve achieved something. We are the englishmen that climbed up a mountain that’s really a hill. There are a million ways up here and all of them are easier than the route we came. But we went up that way. And in doing so we have conquered a form of fear. Which is a strong metaphor for what I am trying to do in writing these letters to people who might want to start a lovely working relationship with me.
It puts me in mind of that overshared inspirational quote by Marianne Williamson. Everything in its context. If you can’t share enthusiastic overshared lifestyle advice in California, then where the hell can you? Here it goes people. Switch off your bullshit meter:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. It’s not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
There we go. Fear. Screw you fear, me and my friends are kicking your ass from now on. HOO AH. Sing it with me, brothers and sisters. California. Aaaaargh. etc etc etc repeat until sick