(From a previous road trip through Leavenworth, in lil ole Lucinda)
The feeling of getting home after a weekend of fun and challenge and being outside, and having nothing yet to look forward to, fills me with a sense of hopelessness. Logically, I know that things will happen, that more adventures sit just over the horizon, but my lack of patience tells me that if I am not doing anything right now, I never will be.
This weekend was a whirlwind of friends, deep conversations, and lots and lots of learning. I had decided the week before that I might as well just take my SPI (Single Pitch Instructors) course now, after a summer of learning applicable skills, so I signed up for one in Leavenworth the next weekend. I left for Leavenworth on Thursday, and only got about 50 miles in my van before burning oil and thunking brakes forced me to a halt at Multnomah falls. My father came to the rescue with his Prius, and he took my van back to Portland with the tow truck while I continued on my way.
This whole year has just been one car issue after another, and I can say that I might finally be letting go of some of the control issues that I feel towards planning trips in the van. I am learning that it is much easier to go with the flow, deal with things as they come. That doesn’t meant that I don’t feel an overwhelming sense of foreboding whenever I start driving any sort of distance, especially since I have never actually gone any significant distance in her yet. But letting go of the urgency, letting go of the expectations, letting go of the stress, it isn’t easy, but it sure is a good idea.
As I continued east, I decided to just dive into this going with the flow thing full force, and take a detour to see some friends from college who were only a few minutes off of my route. It was Gabrienne's birthday, and stopping to see smiling faces, laugh and talking with old and new friends, drink fresh pressed apple cider, eat salmon, and enjoy views of the volcanoes to the south and north of us, more than filled me up after a summer away from familiar faces.
Getting back in the car after dinner, at about 9pm with another 3.5 hours of driving ahead of me, was less than fun, but worth it to have experienced such a lovely night. I stopped outside of Leavenworth just after midnight and hunkered down in the back of the Prius to try to get some sleep, but a combination of nerves for the next day, a deflated sleeping pad, and too many things to think about keep me awake until nearly 3am.
Getting up the next morning I felt pretty much awful, but coffee and breakfast did a little bit to wake me up and curb the anxiety. As soon as I met up with the folks who were going to be on my course, and started in on the material, everything was fine. It's just that uncertainty of the unknown that gets my mind and body all thrown off. I do my best to recognize that this kind of anxiety is usually before something that is pushing myself a little bit outside my comfort zone; just the place I want to be.
The next couple days were a whirlwind of anchors, top rope set ups, belayed rappels, rescue techniques, and lots of discussions both around technical systems as well as what it means to be a guide. I think I surprised myself by knowing a lot, but there is alway more to learn, and ALWAYS more to refine and smooth out. I felt like the course filled in holes in my climbing education and systems. It showed me lots of tricks that would just make my life easier as well as so many things to think about that it overwhelms my head.
I also had the privilege of having some amazingly deep conversations with some really strong women who I look up to a lot within the fields of life and the outdoors. Conversations about social justice within the outdoors. Conversations about personal, professional, and industry growth. Conversations that need to continue. I never want to accept anything as good enough. There is always more to do to improve. There is always justice to be fought for.
After a summer spent learning and practicing many of these systems, it felt good to feel like I did in some ways, know what I am doing. At the same time, there is so much still that needs to be practiced, so much that can be made more smooth, more dialed. There is always more to learn and to improve at.
Now it is just about putting all the pieces together. Preparing and piecing together who I will be next. Will I be a mountain guide? Will I be a stronger climber? Will I be a photographer? Will I be a better friend? All I can do now is manifest who that next Ilana will be. All I can do is create everything I need to move forward. I can do everything I can to be open and ready for the next thing. But I cannot force it to happen. I can not force my van to be fixed, I cannot force opportunities to appear. But I can do everything I can do to be open to new directions. To every path that could be open for me.