Ken Wylie leading on Polar Circus. February 1985 Photo: Jeff Nazarchuk.

Ken Wylie leading on Polar Circus. February 1985 Photo: Jeff Nazarchuk.

A Lesson in Anchoring.

Finding the "Still Point" that secures and protects.

 

I have spent my life and climbing career anchoring to things. Only recently have I discovered what this means.

My mountain life has been dominated by a very cold pursuit. Ice climbing. It is a sport that captured every part of my being for decades. Beautiful places have immersed me on this frozen journey. The notable thing about ice climbing is its impermanence; a great lesson for this life. The ice routes I have climbed do not exist in summer. It has taught me to accept what is happening right now, knowing it will be different later. Ice climbs change from year to year, day to day, hour to hour and even minute to minute. Just like my life. The most unnerving thing about ice climbing, are the anchors. They can and do melt away. They will be there for you one moment, and gone the next. Fickle by temperature. They can't be trusted completely, so require vigilance.

 Teaching Ice Anchors

Teaching Ice Anchors

I have spent my life anchoring to things that melt away and vaporize. It has been an unsettling life as a result. I have kept putting my hopes in people and situations to be there for me, but they can't. Just like the ice, they can't be something they are not. Parts of this life are designed to be unsettling in hopes to steer us to something more solid and enduring.

Lately I have been constructing a new rock route. The anchors connecting me to the cliff have more permanence than ice. Over a much longer term they provide a substantial still point, but also need management and assessment over the long term because even steel is subject to corrosion.

 Bolt Anchors in Rock.

Bolt Anchors in Rock.

For however long, an anchor in a climbing system is a still point. All of the moving parts of the climbing happen around this fixed point and its imovability; ascents, descents, and falls are all protected. But in all climbing anchors, there is an element of care and maintenance that is required to service this fixed point. The greatest lesson from climbing is managing the still point; I choose to deepen the meaning to . . .the still point of my life.

One day a man asked me, "What do you worship"?  I was triggered by the question because I have had a "hate on" in my life for religion. Then he said, "We all worship something and becoming aware of what one spends ones time focused on is the answer."  I rephrase that question now to, "What do I anchor to in my life?"

I do not believe in the "Paternalistic God" that so many do. It is just another version of something that won't be there for me on my human struggle. A being that will send me to the eternal fire if I screw up. No thanks. I have anchored to the hope that relationships, sex, alcohol, work and even climbing would give me a deep sense of connection and safety. By clinging to these things I have been securing my life to thawing ice, and shattered rock. Things that never could be solid or secure, leaving me alone on a steep face of my life without a connection point for safety, peace and nurturing. Deeply unsettling.

However, there is a solid anchor in my life. It is not substantial by any earthy measure, but is the only thing that has resiliency. The still point in me. The source of my being. This is who I really am. This still point. It needs minding, just like any anchor. I need to come back to it time and again to reconnect; remember this to be the thing that sustains, and protects. However, there is one difference, this anchor does not melt away, nor is it subject to the ravages of time.

The still point. All of the movement in my life, the falls, ascents and descents can happen around this point. The still point is who I am. The falls, descents and ascents are only what I do.

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