Life is busy. I had gone to sleep later than I would have liked after a day that had been busier than I would have preferred. Today was going to be busier than yesterday, and I was not excited about it. The only redeeming thing about the week was I had some time to sleep in this morning before the chaos started again.
The phone rang as I lay in bed: “Ice climbing?” I looked at the clock. I knew that if I went ice climbing I would literally be running from activity to activity for the rest of the day. As I wondered if it was worth going, a lyric from a new Paul Simon song came to my head, “Life is what we make of it, so beautiful or so what.”
If I didn’t go ice climbing I would look back on this day as another busy day in a busy finals week. There would be no way to distinguish the day from any of the others on either side of it. If I went ice climbing though, I wondered if a year later I would look back and remember that I was even busier that day because I decided to go climbing or if I would just remember the splendor of crawling up a frozen waterfall. “Let’s do it.” I crawled out of bed and started getting dressed. (My wife deserves a lot of credit here because I had promised to drive her to work and she agreed to find another ride at 7:30 in the morning).
I drove into Provo canyon and was stunned at how cold it was. Ice climbing is almost always in the shadow of a mountain so it doesn’t melt. While this is great for the ice, it is also freezing for the climbers. As we hiked up to the base of the frozen Bridal Veil Falls, I began to miss my warm bed.
As we rounded the bend I saw the massive frozen waterfall. It was absolutely gorgeous. Ice billowed down the mountainside for hundreds of feet looking at once like a pile of fluffy clouds and a mass of castle pillars. It was also incredibly warm. Something to do with water changing phase from liquid to solid apparently causes massive quantities of freezing water to emit a little bit of heat. It was much warmer at the base of the ice than it had been on the canyon floor.
My friend helped me set up the crampons and began to talk me through the techniques of ice climbing. I had never been before. I started up the frozen mass and was stunned at how hard it was to climb. I was the first on the route, so large icicles and layers of unstable ice still covered the wall. I had to hammer over and over to get each ice ax to stick. It was exhausting, and because of my bad technique, the climb took me about 30 minutes. I fell a few times and the razor sharp crampons tore through my jeans like they were paper. When I crawled over the top of the falls I was exhausted and my arms cried out in condemnation of the decision to come here.
“How was that?” “Exhausting,” I answered. I watched my friend Dave climb up the falls after me. He made it look easy. After he came down I started looking at my watch, realizing I needed to leave soon if I was going to get to work on time. “Do it once more.” “I’ve really got to go.” “Just give it a 10 minute try and you can lower down after that.”
Against my better judgment I got back on the ice. I modeled what Dave had done, and I felt like I was flying. In 10 minutes I was nearly at the top, and I hadn’t fallen once. It felt so much more natural, and I was sad I had to go. I lowered down, thanked Dave for a really cool trip and literally started jogging back to my car. The rest of the day was extremely busy, but I couldn’t help but smile through it all because of my experience.
We’re all busy. Everyone has a reason not to do something exciting or fun each day. It sounds odd to say, but I think we need to take time to do the things we want to do, not just the things we have to do. If we don’t, our lives can easily stretch into a string of months and years indistinguishable from one another. I’m not saying that everyone needs to go out and ice climb, but I think we all should do things we will remember fondly when we look back on them. That could be as adventurous as rock climbing or a simple as walking the park with a loved one. In a way, we really are the sum of our life experiences. Our lives can be so beautiful or so what. Don’t let the day-to-day keep you from doing things you’ll remember.