As I write this the date is December 8th, 2014. I’m 16 days away from getting into my car and making the 1,000 mile pilgrimage to a high desert environment containing some of the world’s most aesthetic climbing test pieces. The scale of bouldering in this environment is massive; not only in its historic content, but in its real time immovable presence. The boulders are, well, massive! And they are everywhere. Huge granitic dinosaur eggs scattered all over the litter box of the Sierra Nevada Mt. Range and the subsequent valleys it frames. To say that this place is ‘special’ would be a gross disservice to not only the written word and its capabilities to accurately describe a place of this magnitude and beauty but also to our imaginations and the fodder of original thought therein. Bishop is unique; it’s seasonal perfection reaches a high point in the coldest of our north American seasons in which the mountains are draped in the finest of white linens, the sky sports a Stellar’s Jay cardigan, and this phantasmagorical arena is filled with wayward participants all enacting a script that intertwines even the most loneliest of wolves, the most star struck of lovers, the most spiritual of high plains desert philosophers, prophetic beta shamans, open minded youngsters seeking didactic encounters of holism, and the purest of experiences brought to cathartic clarity through a filter of physiologically engineered pharmacological bliss.
It is fitting then to describe our migration to such a place with all of its animalistic gravity as a true ‘pilgrimage’. Its magnetism not withstanding Bishop withholds its secrets like any good mystic. The release of its profundity comes in small doses which tickle the spine and cause the brain to percolate in a surge of its own viscous enlightenment. Neuronally-transmitted your third eye needs no corrective lenses when cradled by a cacophony of serotonin, oxytocin, and dopamine. But these boulders are quick to remind us of the significance of fear and its role as a teacher in our lives. And many will come face to face with this lesson; some choosing to run from it while others choose to embrace it and sit with it, become friends with it, occasionally invite it to dinner. There is grace and elegance even within the dankest of disembodied chasms. Existing only in darkness and dusty compliance with the nature of volcanic organization these chaotic jumbled labyrinths provide a home to our inverted inclinations articulated through prowess and compression. As we squeeze into these rabbit holes there is no denying our sense of freedom within and between communities; to wander unmolested between a time-filled reality saturated with obligation and our own sense of self entitlement and one in which we are fully aware of the connection and ubiquity of the discourse between the part and the whole.
We visit these places for that remembrance. The character of these places and the characters that inhabit these places stitch the fabric of our reckoning and reformation, of realization and recognition and serve to remind us of the permanence that is lost in the ebb and flow.
So when you arrive please ask yourself why you are here, and try to sit down wearing your Hemingway hat when you respond. Because, you can lie to yourself and to your friends, but Bishop; this dusty pocketed lonely amalgam of crystalline cartography that has seen the desperate dance of predator and prey, which has been drunk on scorpion skins and rabbit tears and digested the afterbirth of thousands of steaming foals, its mouth open wide to evaporating rains in April and its face bruised and beaten by its bi-polar lover and all of her windy inclinations, knows you and your name. And it is no coincidence that you are here. It is no lucky happenstance that you find yourself cowering in the shadows one minute and then sneering with unbridled confidence the next. It has given us life through a purpose we never stop struggling to define. To pretend otherwise is to deny yourself a voice in this conversation or a place around the pallet fire of our star wrapped afghan gathering, waiting to watch a universal dynasty disrobe before our galloping, jigging, vibrating group of inebriated primates all collapsing in on each other, buried in good cheer and merriment's curiosity. We eventually, all of us, become a part of that dynasty anyway, we came from the jewels it wears and the black ether it drinks. We pollute its martini glass and slip about the side of the funneled goblet it guzzles from, giggling as we are swirled by a cosmic swizzle stick holding our toes and tumbling down the throat of a translucent lion belched back from the brink only to rehearse again a scene, a line, a look in which we will always attain an unexpected perfection.
So wipe your face clean of worry with the rags of chagrin and mischief. Stumble about the streets and see past the motel lit sidewalks screaming from the weight of artificial coloring, grease, greed, and suffocating small town desperation. Throw two balls down that bowling alley, high five the Dirt Burger, wrap your dinner in a tortilla, get bombed on torpedo’s, dodge fuzzy eyeballs filled with hippy hate at Rusty’s, and seek nighttime solace in sprinters searching for dance parties on sleeping dogs. And forget that you take yourself seriously amidst peers and probing prognosticators abeam the ship of academia and professionalism. For you are finally here! Where you were always meant to be; it was told in the stars by an erudite avatar and written by a nameless author, a ghostly prophecy, a nocturnal bedtime story, the unspoken heard whispered on the lips of a mother gold mantel ground squirrel. Bury your face in its apron of dried sage and greet the iron man in your birthday suit. Shake a dirty mane of hair at the sight of pink tips and join in the barrage of an encouraging verbal entourage as we all send a problem together.