I felt the cold, rough granite beneath my bare hands. It soothed the chafed skin even as it further inflamed it.
I clung to the rock. My eyes raced to find the next grip. I was stuck. My legs were fully extended, deadweight. It would require sheer upper body strength to move up from my current position . . . but my strength is in my legs.
I backed down to try it again. Twice I worked myself into a stall. My friends called down encouragement. They told me what I couldn’t see, what paths might be open that I was overlooking. They promised me I could make it.
A third time I stood at the bottom studying the rocks and the chasms. I tossed my pack up to a friend. Now I was committed. I needed to scale the rock on the left, cross over to the piece jutting out from the right—without hitting the rock fifteen inches above it—then shift my weight around the overhang so I could scramble up the face of the rock.
I found a tiny foothold I’d missed earlier and pushed myself up higher with enough leverage to make the cross. I hugged the outcropping; my body suspended over a six foot drop. I swung my legs to the right and inched my upper body after them until I could scamper up the last incline on my toes and fingertips.
Sometimes being 5’1″ is an advantage when bouldering. I can fit in little places. There’s less of me to move. My center of gravity is close to the rocks. But then there are those moments when I can’t reach. The easy jump or stretch is not so easy. There isn’t enough of me to get from point A to point B the way everyone else can.
Like all of life.
My route to the destination may look different from another person’s route. I may need some intermediary points to get me from here to there. I might look at the same obstacle but see a different reality because I’m bringing my context, experience and skills . . . even if we’re standing in the same place, our views are unique.
What I turn sideways and slip through without ducking might seem inaccessible for the person beside me. And then it’s my turn to be the encourager, the one offering another set of eyes and possible avenues forward.
If I’d been alone at Joshua Tree that day, I would have given up after the second attempt. Too short. Too weak. Not going to happen. But I wasn’t alone.