Love to Learn and Learn to Love
One of the many benefits of being in love is that one always remains young and excited and the best way to discover love anew each day is to keep trying something new, to learn something different and to do something you have never done before. As long as we learn we can never grow old and we would be in love, not only with another human but with life itself.
Following this dictum of learning new things I constantly discover love in everyday life, be it with a person, with a thought, with life or with an activity. And my latest love is ‘rock-climbing’, which my instructor claims will keep me fresh, young, dynamic and happy for the rest of my life.
From the first moment on, as I touched the rope and looked up at the scary rock wall, I felt like a fish in an ocean. It was my natural element, this vertical world. Within this vertical arena I not only discover my true self but also find my freedom, my limitations and also the means of overcoming them. I feel like a bird soaring high above the earth and I feel incredibly happy, young and completely in love from the beginning again. When I embrace the rock it holds me like a lover and caresses my body and imagination to heightened pleasure. And as I climb higher the world below looks more and more breathtaking that we don’t realize from ground. The distant horizons leap into my view and I can only gasp and wonder; why hadn’t I taken up climbing before!
As you all know by now that I am totally an outdoor girl always looking for opportunities to explore nature and test myself and I had always suspected that there was a climber sleeping deep inside my soul. One of my favorite places that I visit often is the Samothrace Island in Northern Greece. Unlike most of our well-developed and marketed Greek islands, Samothrace regales in wild beauty, untamed waterfalls and high mountain cliffs therefore it sees barely any tourist.
Each time I visit this wilderness, I find myself inexplicably drawn to the sheer vertical rock faces and I try to scramble up the cliffs, even reaching the top of the highest summit several times. I had felt at times that my ‘free-solo’ attempts might actually cause me some grief in case of a fall or slip one day since I had no training, no experience and equipment for such rock climbing. Till one day last month I decided to join a proper climbing school in my neighborhood and obtain some real climbing skills; that’s the beginning of my new love story.
Within a week of registering at the school I found my way to the climbing wall along with my two dear friends. It was love at first sight and touch. I was jumping like a kid and couldn’t wait to put on all the equipment and go up. But the first things I learned were patience and calmness that is required to become a good climber. At the end of the first day our instructor showed us a climbing video at the world famous Meteora Rocks in Greece. When the film ended, which I had been watching breathless, our instructor informed that for our last lesson in this course we would climb in Meteora, by then we all would achieve the expertise needed for such sheer vertical walls. A cool sweat broke into my skins in anticipation and fear mixed with unknown joy. This love would be tough to please.
For the next class we head outdoors to a lovely area by a river where we find many other local climbers. We are led to the bottom of a high vertical rock face. I crane my neck up to find where it ends but I see only the blue sky. I put on my helmet and harness, with few carabiners dangling from the loops; the shoe feels tight and uncomfortable and all the paraphernalia around seem chaotic and confusing. Only after a while did things start to make some sense.
The teacher explained us the day’s climbing plan and then tied into a rope and climbs up graceful as a lizard (belayed by his assistant). He reaches the top and after securing to an anchor leans out and I hear my name sailing down. It’s my turn to follow. Even though I had been waiting for this moment right now my heart starts galloping like a mad horse. I try to look cool and walk up to the rock face, catching the eyes of the teacher atop. He beckons me to start climbing.
I hesitate a bit as initially I don’t see the nooks and holds through the rock and I am puzzled how the teacher could have climbed through with such ease and grace. He had climbed like a spider, soft and steady, barely making a whisper. He had been twisting his waist and toes like a ballerina on a wall. I wanted to climb like him.
But how did he do it? Where were all the steps he seemed to use while climbing? Did they disappear? I could see none. I took a deep breath, look up at him, fix my gaze at the big wall smack on my face and leave ground; surely and steadily without really understanding how it happened I suddenly found myself next to the instructor, secured at the anchor. I felt so proud. I patted my back while enjoying the breathtaking view around. It was like the true love’s first kiss every girl wishes for. I was swinging up there, enjoying the view, hanging into the gaps, just by a strap. The feeling was so unique to me. I was safe yet vulnerable; I realized how fragile the balance between life and death is. My life was absolutely in the instructor’s hand, since until then; I had no clue how to get secured by myself.
In this way climbing can help us create stronger bonds between two people and as one of my climbing friend says; before you marry someone or commit into a relationship you must climb together a mountain. After the climb you can decide what you want to do.
At this point I want to emphasis that rock-climbing per-se is not dangerous. As long as you have the right equipment and training and know your limits nothing bad would happen. When done properly climbing is safer than crossing a crowded road.
When I got back home after my first outing, exhausted to my bones, I wondered why I was torturing myself in that way. My fingers were bleeding and bloated, all my carefully manicured nails were complete disaster, my entire body and limbs ached. So why was I so happy? Why couldn’t I stop thinking of this weekend’s experience? It was only then I realized that climbing came into my life only to make me a better person and reveal unknown paths, making my life more exciting.
Today, I am not a climber yet, but I intend to learn as much as I can and face whatever it takes, challenge and push my limits to learn more about my own true self, face my fears and of course rejoice life in outdoors. I truly believe that climbing will make me a better person and I would be able to excel at other fields as well. Since climbing can unlock our deepest unknown strengths. I would recommend each one of you to at least try something in the outdoors, even a hike or a walk by the sea and if you can then do clip on to a rope and go up against gravity. You would never be the same again.
I am so happy and grateful to my teachers and climbing partners for introducing me to the climbing world; a world that widens my horizons and sets my heart free.
So my friends go out and try something new and discover the love that will make your life vivid, exciting and fun. If not climbing, I am sure that there is something else waiting for you to be discovered. You just have to go for it.
Life is wonderful and climbing helped me see it clearly.
* Carabiners: a metal loop with a spring-loaded gate used to quickly and reversibly connect components.