I would love to live like the rivers flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding.

-John O'Donohue

Saturday, as I gazed at the gulley leading up to Yosemite Valley’s Higher Cathedral Rock, a few hundred feet below where my partner was leading the fourth pitch of the Regular Route on Higher Cathedral Spire just above me, I was doing the belay ledge usual: notice the scenery, think about life.

Why does that raven keep going back to that ledge on the wall over there? And on the ground, look at that little tree with the red and orange branches at the bottom. It’s glowing, it’s a magical tree. That tree has magical powers, but it’s probably dying, actually. Why is it dying?

I really need to call my friend, Hannah. Are we drifting apart? Am I where I want to be in life? All sorts of muddled, confusing thoughts about life. Why don't I ever think this clearly when I'm not tied to a rock?

Oh, is that the raven? Is that black dot over there on the wall the raven? Is that the raven? Do I know where the raven is? Where is the raven? Oh yes, look at his wings flutter; my eyes knew where the raven was. Look how his wings glisten in the sun when he flies. Where is his partner? Oh, there she is. How pretty they are as they dance through the sky. Is that a she-raven? How do you tell the difference? Now they’re going over to that other ledge. There’s a lot of water on that other ledge. I wonder if they’re having a drink.

It was the first time I had been back to the Valley since December; extreme winter precipitation in previous months had kept us away, causing a feverish longing strong enough that I started painting El Cap into a painting of the beach by my apartment, on the Coast.

Our first day back was great! We spent it on a moderate route with a longer, steep approach, up one of my favorite Yosemite formations (Higher Cathedral Spire). I followed my partner up the climb and hung on every pitch except for the first, 5.5. The shame! There was a lot of snow up high, more snow than I’ve seen in Yosemite this time of year over the decade I’ve been going there.

On the one hand, I was happy I wasn’t a total disaster after not having climbed in Yosemite for four months—we finished the route without incident—and on the other, I was embarrassed that the route wasn’t a breeze (though it never really is). As I was climbing, I tried to observe my attitude and level of commitment to each move. In retrospect, the times I hung, I was letting go before I actually fell off, a bad habit that makes me wonder if I’m self-sabotaging, hanging to reinforce my belief that I’m not strong or good enough to lead, even though I want to lead, or think I do.

Though I noticed a couple unwelcome feelings, which I am treating as good teachers (I need to strengthen my ability to focus and as always, could just let things unfold, rather than get hung up on my expectations and emotional baggage–the ongoing battle!), we had a wonderful day on Saturday. Everything went smoothly: enjoying a leisurely breakfast, meeting two lovely women from the East Bay who shared their Easter stickers with me, reaching a beautiful summit where we shared yummy cheese sandwiches, and returning to the truck before dark. As a friend says, any day you get out climbing and don't get hurt is a good day!