These last few days, when we emerge from trail at the top of the canyon, the moon is already full in the cloud-feathered eastern sky before the sun has fallen below the horizon. The nights are bright, filled with energy, as though mother nature is saying, “Come out now and admire the beauty you so often close the curtains to.” It’s hard to sleep through her whispering, and we get up to stand outside in the nocturnal glow. Things look different in the harvest light. Agave leaves radiate silver, and the chaotic shapes of the junipers lend them a sense of life and movement. White light leaps from the limestone talus. Everything is very close. The moon itself and the stars all so low, and the sky so wide, night keeping the earth safe until the sun returns.

The days are getting shorter, the sun lower. Tonight the hands of the clock will rotate backward an hour. Charlie suggested that we live in true recluse fashion and ignore daylight savings, but we started thinking about how easily that could confuse us when we need to interact with the rest of the world. So change our clock and watches we will, and awake an hour earlier (but really still the same time) to preserve our already abbreviated climbing days. Charlie will be up before me, drinking coffee and reading, and when I finally stir, he knows to be gentle with me. He’ll ask softly, “Ready for coffee?”. As long as I can remember, I have woken up angry. There’s no reason I’m aware of, I think I just really like sleeping, so waking irritates me.

Coffee and book. Feed dogs. Charlie makes breakfast, I do the dishes. Change clothes, fill water bottles, put food in pack. Load dogs into car, lock camper, drive to trailhead. We’re there by 9:30, in the cave by 10.

My birthday is in 3 weeks. Forty-six. It’s one of those weird numbers…closer to fifty than forty, and who ever feels that old? Charlie will be sixty a month after my birthday and, to see him campus and dyno his way through 13c yesterday, I question certain so-called inevitabilities of the aging process. We’re both feeling strong now, starting to benefit from this schedule that provides consistency along with the freedom to rest when our bodies suggest we should.

Of course some things are changing. My skin seems to be growing larger, while my body remains the same size it’s always been. It gets stretchier, develops more strange valleys and lines, and thins like dough rolled out for pastry. This has the potential to be very disturbing, but really it’s fascinating. It’s as though my physical skin is changing in keeping with my metaphorical inner skin. It becomes thinner, yes, but also more pliable. There’s room for more of me in it, and it has a sort of transparency. As I grow older, my ability to conceal my meaning has fallen away. My thoughts are generally available to anyone who has an inclination to know them, sans excuses, tempering or euphemisms…exactly as they are. I’ve come to learn that what I think is neither good nor bad, it just is.

November 21st is a Saturday this year, a rest day. I’m looking forward to spending it with Charlie and my cup of coffee, the dogs, and the strange, bare beauty of this hard New Mexico desert.



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