There is a beautiful turn of phrase that I’ve come across over the the last few years, one that is very much with me these days, as we endeavor before and after and around the edges of our work lives to prepare for the Denali climb. I’m not sure where I first heard it, but I think it was somewhere amid the intersection of yoga classes, those sometimes cheesy inspirational social media posts, and perhaps a former rooommate-turned-yogini.
That phrase is “dwell in gratitude.”
Often aspirational – I can’t count the number of times I’ve said “I’m trying to dwell in gratitude” teary-eyed, over a glass of red wine with a close friend, when life seemed to be going sideways – dwell in gratitude sums up the way I want to look at the world for the rest of my life: I want to live in, and experience my life from a place that starts by recognizing how much I have to be thankful for.
Since the first time I heard the phrase I’ve sought to apply it to the way I live my own life, and to “dwell in gratitude” not only for what I’ve been given, but for the community of people who support my dreams and ideas of myself, and in so doing help make them real.
In few things is this more true than in my lived experience of climbing.
I dwell in gratitude daily for the Mountaineers, an organization without which I might still be fumbling around the many bases of our jaw-droppingly beautiful northwestern peaks, wistfully gazing towards the summit, wondering what it would take to get up there (and down) safely. I dwell in gratitude for the structure of the organization, the people who stand behind it, and work for it, and volunteer for it, and for the facility that supports our training. But more so than just the organization itself, I am oh, so, so grateful for the community it has given me, and how the people in that community have and continue to inform and enrich my life.
The support we have been given, and have felt, from our friends in the Seattle mountaineering community has been very humbling, even though in many ways we’re just getting started. When we began telling people beyond our closest friends that we would be attempting Denali, I felt unusually shy about doing so- I believe in my abilities and those of my friends, and we are doing the “homework:” the prep, the training, and the research, but I still wasn’t entirely confident about how people we knew would respond to four women – we four women – heading off to do Denali ourselves. Not in the way of “without men,” per se, but simply as a private, non-guided, self-led climb.
The reaction however, and of course, has been wonderful, and oh so supportive. We have benefitted from gifts of loaned gear, advice, and the kindness and time of our friends and community members as they have sat with us over a glass of wine or a beer, and shared the stories of their own attempts on the mountain, answering questions about what gear choices worked, what didn’t, and why they did or didn’t succeed in reaching the summit.
Every time I’ve sat or chatted with these many genuine and inspiring friends, I’m struck by how much climbing is a collaborative and self-compounding activity – each climber passing on anecdotes of hard-earned experience to the next, in many ways “breaking trail” for the climbers that will attempt the same summits, sometimes long after they have headed home. I am wordless, literally, at how much gratitude I feel for their time, thoughtfulness, and many offers of support, or loaner gear. Their many kindnesses go beyond what anyone could reasonably expect, and do so time and again.
And I dwell in gratitude for the other Denali Girls – such strong, capable, smart, powerful, bold and inspiring women – I am so grateful to be in a place, both geographical and metaphorical, where I have a community of these and other strong, confident mountain women – it’s such an incredible sisterhood. So tonight as I share our nascent blog efforts with my larger community for the first time, please know how grateful I am, and dare I say we are, for the many people who are and have supported us along the way. I am so proud to be a part of this community of climbers, and thinkers and doers, riskers and achievers – I am so grateful for the support and guidance of each of you, every single day.