I've never read an entire article in Real Simple or Martha Stewart Living, but every month, as soon as they hit the newsstands, I peruse (ahem, a commonly misused word) them for at least an hour. They're hard to miss, always front and center, smugly hiding the messier, louder covers of National Geographic Adventure and Cosmo.
Unlike the other mags on the shelves, with their garish promises and enticements, Real Simple (RS) and Martha Stewart Living (MSL) are calming; selling serenity, peace and natural beauty. A cabin in the woods with a red door and concrete floors and plenty of southern exposure.
With their many photos of labeled baskets of ribbons and fabric, open shelves of organic sheets and towels, sunny craft rooms and organized pantries, RS and MSL help me imagine a life in which I do everything I say I’m going to do: run, work, climb, knit, write letters, ski, play the guitar, cook, do laundry, make sure the dogs got plenty of exercise. In a day.
They promise time, order, completion. They promise predictability. That’s what I love about them. That’s why just holding them in my hands - I especially love the rough, heavy paper of RS - makes me smile.
Sunday I climbed with our friend, Young Alex. I've climbed with him once before, in California in the middle of a road trip. I was tired then, not really trying, sort of content to just hang out. Yesterday, though, I was eager to climb and I said as much as we drove to the gym.
Regardless, after warming up, when I started trying harder routes, I found myself sinking back into the normal headtrips – giving up before I was tired, opting for adequacy over potential failure.
I remember a time when I didn’t focus on possible negatives, when the only thing I thought about while climbing was how strong I felt, how much I loved being in the canyon or the mountains, 400 feet off the ground, good gear at my feet and a stance just above me. I remember my first hard route on the Diamond. We were rushed getting out of Boulder and I spent the drive to the trailhead organizing the rack rather than studying the topo. My partner was nervous, thought we should take some time to really peruse (see? There it is again!) the guidebook. I brushed her off; I had no doubts in our abilities and knew that we’d figure it out. Routefinding was part of the adventure back then. Not knowing what was coming next? Even better.
I was probably too reckless back then. I should have paid more attention, should have placed more gear, should have been more humble. Maybe if I had, the pendulum wouldn’t have swung so far to this other side – to the point of me being scared to fall in the gym (where it’s very, very safe).
Maybe it comes with age, though. Because back then, in the Diamond days, I wouldn’t have looked twice at RS and MSL. I’d have pushed them aside, grabbing at the new issue of Climbing to stare pictures and dream about road trips.
But now? Now I dream about baskets of yarn and jars of needles. About a bright room with a table for my sewing machine and a stool on which to play the guitar. When I think of road trips, I think more of how happy I am with all that unlimited exercise than about climbing big hard routes in the mountains.