Friday, April 27, 2012

Repose of the Modern Writer, committing to a place and space

The best way for me to write something is to have someone expect it from me, or have other things to write. Yes, I am our generation’s writer, the one sitting in front of a computer with the simple task of writing, with the infinite world of the interweb at my fingertips.

The possibilities are endless, and so are the distractions.

The challenge of my generation is to simply focus and get started.

My writing inspiration comes and goes, from day to day, month to month, season to season. Making an effort every day, and reading other people’s work, is the only formula that has worked magic for me. A quiet writing space is also key. And having a muse, something to write about, that is essential.

My muse is the west, my people, Durango and beyond. Durango is a new home for me, I’ve lived here just over a year, and recently I decided that instead of traveling around this summer or moving back up higher in the mountains to Crested Butte, like I did last summer, I’m going to stay put here. It will be interesting to see what fruits come up as a result of planting my roots here in this desert/mountain town.

Summer is very much in the air here. Summer brings out something in the soul. We shed out of our layers, and are more naked to living than any other season. With nakedness comes urges, beauty, risk, reward, is not every summer lived in peace one of love?

Is Durango looking to me, as much as I am looking to her? She is my new home, and around every corner is an opportunity for discovery. If I look for it every day I can find a new climb, new singletrack, new people to meet; my only limitation is myself.

I have moved to this town with the intention of blossoming into the artist and man I truly want to be. I have connected with other souls that share the same interests and desires. I am committed to following my heart, and not money, though every dirtbag needs some money.

In this life I’ve chosen, the one of writer and climber, there are moments of frustration, moments of clarity, moments of doubt, moments of pure concentration and focus; what will today bring?

With summer in the air, my mind starting to focus on the simplicity of writing, today will bring what it does, newness, freshness, an opportunity to live in the moment. With all the distractions possible in this modern world, that challenge seems as inviting as ever.





Monday, April 23, 2012

Jonathan, The Apple Tree

I think it’s crazy to plant something that won’t be beneficial to me for five more years, Andrew thinks it’s crazy people don’t plant trees for that reason.

I wanted to plant a tree. I’ve never done so, not one I remember anyways. Maybe as a kid I did, with my father’s hand guiding my actions, but never at my own will. I have an Environmental Studies degree, yet I’ve never planted a tree. Something’s not right about that.

It started with the tiller, one that runs erratically, pulling me forward as I try to brace my feet and contain its energy. I manage to clear out a small area, maybe six by six feet, raking away the determined grass, and ever present rocks. They don’t call it the Rocky Mountains for nothing was one of the first sayings I ever heard in my Colorado gardening career.

I emulate Andrew’s methodical actions, with his plot just next to mine. In reality they are his and Renee’s plots, their house, their land, but work is shared, as I assume the rewards will be, starting in five years, of course.

Renee brings over Jonathan, the apple tree I’ll plant. He’s already taller than me, with small green leaves, he looks healthy. Renee talks to Jonathan, she is sweet, and handles the plant like the baby it is. Together the three of us guide him, out of the pot, into the earth. He is here now, and in five years when I enjoy the fruit, I imagine we’ll have some stories to share.  Hopefully he won’t be the last. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Climbing Zine Volume 4 and LIVE

As of today, 4/20, The Climbing Zine Volume 4 is live on Kindle, and our website, is also live. Enjoy, and be sure to check in there for my climbing related writing.

The Climbing Zine, Volume 4 on Kindle
The Climbing Zine's website


Monday, April 16, 2012

Changes, The Climbing Zine and Luke’s Bloggie Blog

Something really cool is going to happen for The Climbing Zine this week. On Friday, April 20th we are going to release the e-reader version of Volume 4, and we are going to launch our official website. That is so awesome for many reasons, and it also means the terrain of this blog will open up. Most of my climbing-related blogging will be posted on The Climbing Zine’s website, and this site will feature other sides of what I like to write about.

I love to write, and an essential part of writing is doing it everyday. Practice the craft, put in your time; I believe in this. I also believe writing is the greatest thing I have to share with the world. It is really the greatest gift I feel I’ve been given.

I’m stoked to write about: family, friendship, love, changing of seasons, emotions, nutrition, gardening, mistakes, bicycles, travel, books, zines, yoga, music, dancing, running; everything that makes my life worth living. I want to occasionally reach that ‘tingle in the spine’ moment with my words, for the reader.

I started this blog a few years ago because people kept asking me if I had a blog, when I told them I was a writer. It became the source for news on The Climbing Zine, when it really took off, and now that zine has a life of its own, and this Friday it will have its own landing page.
Life is a beautiful struggle. Thanks for all the love, and I promise to continue delivering the goods.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Climbing Zine Volume 4 set to be Released on 4/20

The Climbing Zine Volume 4 will be released as an eZine on April 20th, followed by the print version shortly after. Our theme for this issue is Back to the Essence. Here's a sample from the introduction to get a taste of what is to come, and the writers who are bringing the goods.

Cover shot by: Drew Ludwig. Design by Mallory Logan

We’re back to a lineup of having multiple writers featured in The Climbing Zine. The last issue was entirely my own writing, and while that was a fun experiment, I don’t want this zine to be just my words. Every climber has her or his own view of the activity, and their unique experiences which create this perspective. Add in some writing skills, and the potential for great climbing stories is infinite.

Here we are proud to present Mike Reddy’s incredibly brave and honest piece, The Long Way Back, which covers his journey of getting back to climbing after a nearly life ending fall. Even with his doctors saying he would never climb again, Reddy has been determined to do so, with help from the inspiring and empowering organization, Paradox Sports. Mike also contributed valuable editing services to this volume.

We also have a piece from Jesse Zacher titled Blackened, documenting his climb of The Hallucinogen Wall in the Black Canyon. This is Zacher’s first appearance in this publication, and his words beautifully dance with the pure essence of climbing. There’s nothing but brutal honesty in his prose as he takes the reader to The Black, and reveals what surfaced during his adventure.

Cliff Cash is back for this issue, with a fiction piece titled, Trim Season and The Mushroom Wall. Cash tells a cautionary tale about several climbers who get involved in the marijuana business to fund their climbing adventures. Also in the story, the trio of Cliff, Jack and Thurgood, have a psychedelic filled adventure on the made-up route, The Mushroom Wall, in a place that is out of this world, the Black Canyon.

Our final contributor is Scott Borden, who writes about the essence of climbing from a biological standpoint. He writes that our urge to climb, and how good that makes us feel, is imbedded into our DNA. His piece, Sending the Double Helix, is sure to stimulate the remaining brain cells left in every reader’s mind.

We’ve also added a new section to our zine: What We’re Reading, a space for reflections on classic climbing literature, new and old. In this initial installment we look at Jennifer Lowe Anker’s Forget Me Not


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Indian Creek Reflection, before it all slips away

The good times are moving fast these days, zipping by as we fly through space on this big ball of rock. As a writer it is my job to record, to pause, to go back in time, if only slightly, and squeeze the juice out of divine moments, and produce something special for those that read.

I once had a Recreation professor in college that would say our moments in the outdoors have less meaning if we don’t reflect upon them afterwards. I think it’s technically called a debrief. I find truth in that idea as I sit here and write now, recharging and reenergizing for the next climbing excursion.
The red rock desert of Indian Creek canyon is my home. I would not be opposed to have my ashes scattered there after my time here is done. I cannot fathom death now, being so alive, yet someday it will come. I just hope I can grow old, write, climb, and love more than I already have. I’ve got plans and dreams.

This place, a seemingly endless corridor of red rock walls and towers with perfect cracks, little trace of man’s impacts, desert trees and bushes, free camping in the truest sense of the word, birds, lizards, bunny rabbits, and deer; it is a life changing place. Personally it consumes me, and living in Durango, just two and a half hours away, well it’s a part of my existence, and it gives and takes energy to be a part of this place.

I’ve been learning lately to give one hundred percent into life; today is the only day we are truly given, yesterday is dead, tomorrow is a dream. So at Indian Creek I throw myself at the cracks: finger, off-finger, hand, wide hands, off-width, chimney; the fissures created by time and pressure are the objects of a climber’s desire. They are also known as some of the most perfect cracks in the world. And they are in my backyard. Perhaps I would have achieved more in life if I were not distracted by this pursuit; or maybe the opposite maybe these cracks inspire me to strive for perfection, as perfect as they are. Or maybe it is my friends, my climbing partners that inspire.

Tim Foulkes climbing Jolly Rancher, photo by Al Smith III
Those cracks, there are thousands and thousands in the red rock desert in the heart of Utah. Only a few can be seen from the road, those are usually large ones, the ones that swallow our bodies, the off-widths that actually seem to be in fashion right now in climbing. We have to hike to the cracks, and then we cannot resist climbing them. The most perfect are sought out first, those that stretch for a hundred feet or more, the ones that fit our hands and fingers perfectly are the best. The sensation is foreign at first. Watch a first time Indian Creek climber try to climb a crack. It is a ridiculous struggle, as the crowd below instructs of how to insert a climbing shoe into a crack, then the hand or fingers, usually hands are the best appendages to insert into a fissure. Then watch an experienced Indian Creek climber, on a climb that is well within their ability level. They look like they don’t need the rope, or the camming units they stuff into the crack and clip the rope to. It looks intuitive, like vertical hiking.

We all must find challenges though in climbing, and continually reach out of our comfort zones, to grow. There isn’t a climber on this earth that couldn’t find a challenge at Indian Creek. Climbers are all equal, or at least we should be, the struggle is where we unite. We get out what we put in.

I am obsessed with this pursuit, and luckily I have a lot of friends that are into it too, some as obsessed as me, some even much more so. I know I’ll have people to share this passion with until I am old and gray. It’s strange to still have this comfort, as I am close to being in my mid-thirties. I once thought this was a pursuit for my youth, now I know it is a lifelong pursuit, and that is a good thing, the longer I live, the more climbs I learn about that I want to try.

Try hard. That’s an important thing in climbing. Last weekend I tried so hard it hurt. I tried so hard I couldn’t try anymore, until the cracks above were painful just to look at. Just before that, in the climbing bliss, an evening sunset, when a beer was cracked, the peace pipe lit, my muscles feeling a nice pump, with just enough water in the body, I turned to my friend Lindsey, and asked why we ever leave this place. It felt like heaven, a utopia. The sun gave a red ray on an adjacent sandstone wall, as if this weren’t even real. The Bridger Jack towers stood proudly, staggering monuments to present and future climbing, each one its own formation, some higher than others, some more slender at the top, one looking like just a little capstone on a brilliant four hundred foot monument of maroon sandstone. The air cool, it was just too hot earlier, but now it has cooled, nothing last forever, not even that perfect moment. Especially the perfect moments, they fly by as quick as a bird zips by us on a cliff. The valley floor, greening up, any direction in that valley would lead to more sandstone walls, a maze of delight and adventure for a rock climber.

The next day I knew why we leave. We returned to my favorite crack climbing cliff in the world, Broken Tooth, on a mission for one last climb. Hiking up the well built trail from volunteers, rock steps, and twists and turns built by minds that understood trails, my body didn’t seem to want to do it anymore. My legs and muscles burned. The rock wall in front grew closer, I was relieved.

The mission was to retrieve a couple cams a friend had to bail on the day before. It was our fourth day of climbing at Indian Creek. Day one and two a climber may feel indestructible, day four is different. Day four, as my friend Al Smith III says, “the spirit was willing but the body was spongy and weak.” My friend had climbed a sucker crack adjacent of the prime line that was supposed to be climbed. A crack with no anchors, and one where the rock quality goes from perfect to suspect; I climbed up to the cams, and then down aided, praying other cams would not blow out of the rock, or become stuck. I’d been suckered in this crack before, and felt obligated to retrieve our friend’s gear. I then climbed up the correct line, setting up a top rope for Al, who belayed me as I climbed up and down. Lowering off, the rock was heating up, the darker rock hot to touch, and I was growing woozy, light headed, weak; ready to return home.

And then I realized why we leave. It is a home, but just one home; the climber has more than one home. It’s as simple as that. As simple as needing a shower, and rest. To recover.

It would be interesting if the human body never tired. If we could go on for days and days climbing at our limits, if we could live for hundreds of years, instead of a maximum of just under a hundred, but we don’t, at least not yet. We’re living in a world of infinite possibilities, with a finite amount of time.

When it all comes down to it, I only enjoy my active time when I’ve given one hundred percent, when I have tried hard. Same thing with my down time, if there is that itch, that energy to do something I won’t enjoy just sitting there, unless I am in meditation or yoga, but that is another essay.

As for now, I’ve learned something in reflection, in repose, I’m still dreaming about Indian Creek, I always will be, it is a part of me, a part of the land I live within. I love it. I love the climbing partners that love it too. We love the pain and the glory. We love the crack. It is a painful, fiendish, obsessive love affair.

photo by Al Smith III

My body is not ready to return just yet. There is more rest that is needed. More yoga that must be done. More water that I must drink, and food to eat. Across my room where I write and rest, my cams and ropes and other climbing gear sit there, just waiting to be used on the rock, just as my body, when it has recovered will be willing to be thrown upon those cracks, those rocks, in search of something. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

America’s Youth on the Appalachian Trail

This is another piece for my creative non fiction writing course I'm taking with Will Gray at Fort Lewis College. I decided to write about my friends Maura and Al, who will be hiking the AT trail later this year. 

My friends Al and Maura are preparing for six months on the Appalachian Trail; they seem to be searching for something, and for their true selves. I spent the last five days with them during their visit out west, and I wish more Americans had their honesty, ambition and sense of responsibility for the planet. We spent every moment possible in the outdoors during their trip, mostly out at Indian Creek canyon, a red rock utopia for rock climbers, situated on the southern edge of Canyonlands.

Al has been a close friend for a few years now. He’s a very reflective soul, one who always questions his actions, and the actions of other human beings on the planet. He’s concerned about the state of the world, and picks up trash as often as he can. So does Maura, his dreadlocked sweetheart. Their ambitions on the trail include restoring areas when needed. Their carbon footprint will certainly be decreased with months and months of walking. Their minds and souls will transport to spiritual places they never imagined before the journey.

Maura tells me everyone on the trail is given a trail name; her enthusiasm is unbounded. I think walking that long would be boring, but her excitement has me intrigued, and captivated. She’s a new friend; this is our first adventure together. I know Al better. I know after two years in the east he’s discovered his true self belongs out west. But first, before returning, he will take a walk in the woods. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

To The East and The West

I have just returned from a weekend in the east, from New York City and Montreal, that is. It was a wild weekend with a bachelor party for my brother, who is getting married next month. It was a surprise for him, and one meticulously planned by his good friends who flew me out there.

New York City, as Jack Kerouac once described as, “the place where paper America is born”, and indeed it is, quite opposite of home, here in Durango, Colorado. I enjoy NYC, and it is perhaps my favorite city to visit. So much to see and experience, every time I visit I feel like I’ve barely touched the tip of the iceberg.

It was also my first trip to Canada, and I look forward to returning there too, to the west of Canada though, where there are mountains and rocks in British Columbia. Yes, Squamish is definitely in my top five places to climb, and someday soon I hope to climb there.

One of my favorite parts of traveling is coming home, especially when I’ve visited the flatlands. I’m reminded of how I truly feel at home in the mountains, that this is where my people live. I notice the subtle differences more: the beauty of the hills, rocks, trees and mountains; the way people talk and what they talk about; the cars we drive; and the different beauty of women.

This week I’ll venture out to Indian Creek, Utah, the complete opposite of a city, a place where I feel truly at home. I’ll be amongst friends in the incredible red rock desert. We’ll climb, eat, drink and dance; and most of all appreciate the landscape and each other’s company.

This world is bigger than any of us can take in, in these human bodies. I feel grateful to see what I can in the moments I’m given, before it’s all taken away. I hope ya’ll do to.

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