And so 2013 draws to a close. Wow, what a year!
It's been a roller coaster of a year, and no mistake.
On the upside, we had some brilliant climbing adventures...I got a new job that has been very demanding, but quite rewarding overall...and I turned 50 a couple of weeks ago, as you may have noticed.
On the downside, I lost one of my best friends, my boy Bluez the black lab, who passed on at the ripe old age of twelve and a half, in November, having spent his whole life, bar the first 8 weeks, with me. I still miss him like crazy...just thinking of him as I write this, I'm failing again to fight back the tears...
Does that net out to a good year? The good times were fantastic, yet the bad time sees me heart-broken as 2013 fades...
Truth is, the brilliant stuff was brilliant, probably the best year of my life, and my grief for Bluez, deep and still raw on the inside though it is, doesn't negate that.
So the dawning of the New Year is a time to raise a toast to lives now past, and to look forward to new life and new adventures ahead.
And adventures are definitely on the menu!
For today's photo, then, I've chosen something representative of the biggest highlight of my year - climbing. This is all of our climbing equipment (and one random incongruous item, can you spot it?), that we've collected over the last couple of years.
I don't even want to think about how much all of that cost...argh, too late!
There's even another holdall full of odds and ends in the cupboard...
But in our defence, climbing is awesome (you should try it).
It has taken us to many places, spectacular, peaceful, scary, majestic, wild, exposed, idyllic, dangerous or just downright beautiful, that we would never have otherwise gone.
It has tested our strength, our nerve, our resilience, our will, our patience, our endurance, our bank accounts, and our mettle.
It has taught us courage and confidence, and occasionally shown us our limits, in no uncertain terms.
But mostly, it has nourished our hearts and souls as we have engaged in this intimate dance with the Earth.
When else do we interact with the Earth in this (literally) hands-on way? We walk on man made floors, and if we do venture outside, we make sure to put a layer of rubber between us and the ground. We avoid "getting our hands dirty", and so rarely come into physical contact with the natural environment.
When did you last touch, say, a tree? Or go outside your home with bare feet?
Climbing is very intimate in this sense - you have to get right up close and personal with the Earth.
And it teaches us at least one critical lesson in this regard:
In order to successfully climb a rock face, you cannot change the rock face. You must change yourself to conform to the rock
If you do conform to the rock, you will be rewarded with upwards progress.
If you try to impose yourself on the rock, and don't respect your place in this relationship, the rock will summarily spit you off until you learn better.
Too many of the worlds problems are rooted, at least in part, in our ongoing efforts to change the planet to suit us, in order that we can avoid having to change ourselves to suit the world.
Which, when you think about it, is simply the brilliant, beautiful Theory of Evolution;
Those that change to suit their world survive.
Why do we, collectively, seem to think we can go about the world in opposition to this fundamental property of nature? It's irrational!
So climbing, whilst a seemingly dangerous pastime, is more importantly a spiritual uplifting, humbling reminder of our small place in this immense, magnificent Universe.
Well, enough rambling...Happy New Year everyone!