Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Kevin the Climber, Part II


Vedauwoo photo from climbing site vedauwoo.org
This is a good day to be recalling some of my adventures with our son, Kevin. He’s flying in from Tucson today as a 26-year-old man who has a life of his own a thousand miles away. He’s a groomsman at a good friend’s wedding, and he taking an elongated spring break. He’s on the lifetime plan at a community college. But it’s his plan and I’m glad he has one. He doesn’t do much rock climbing any more, but it was his passion as a youngster growing up in Colorado and Wyoming. This post is the second installment of Kevin the Climber.
I watch my son Kevin as he clambers up the tumbledown boulder field of Vedauwoo in southeastern Wyoming’s Laramie Range during the summer of 1996.  There is something natural about this 11-year-old’s ease with the billion-year-old rock, the way he picks his way through narrow passageways and finds just the right finger hold to get up and over a house-sized chunk of Precambrian granite.  You could say that since he is a third-generation Coloradan, born within the magnetic fields of dozens of mountain ranges, he was destined to climb rocks.  He could just have easily been born to yodel country-western songs or snowboard naked or speculate in Aspen real estate or a thousand-and-one things Westerners seem compelled to do.  Kevin prefers rocks.
Where Kevin sees a ladder to the sky, I see a rocky barrier. I will climb until I get to the top or get stymied by a “radical vertical,” whichever comes first.   The rocks seem to beckon Kevin, to welcome him in ways foreign to me.  I have suggested that he should take rope-climbing classes, learn the traditional roots of the sport.  “Why would I want to do that?” he asks, as if it never occurred to him to place something as foreign as rope between him and the mountain.
It’s possible his rock worship might date back to our Druidic roots, our Celtic ancestors’ reciprocal relationship with the natural world.  It may just be that he likes free-climbing rocks the same way I loved surfing during my teen years on Florida’s Atlantic coast.  The Druid Surfer spawns the Druid Rockhead.  If we could jump back in time a million years or so, we could both be engaged in our separate passions right on this very spot.  He could be climbing Mesozoic rocks, still bursting from the earth’s crust, and I could be surfing the bitchin’ waves of the ancient inland sea.
Because Kevin has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, his love for rocks has physiological roots.  To concentrate is everything for this hyperactive kid.  He can’t do it for extended periods of time unless he is under the influence of Ritalin, a drug that helps him control an aggressive impulsiveness, one of the telltale signs of ADHD.  Right now, as he climbs toward the sharp blue Wyoming sky, the Ritalin, a central nervous system stimulant, is working on my son’s brain stem arousal system causing it to not be aroused.  Why is that?  Don’t look for any help from the medical texts.  Says thePhysicians’ Desk Reference:  There is no “specific evidence which clearly establishes the mechanism whereby Ritalin produces its mental and behavioral effects on children, nor conclusive evidence regarding how these effects relate to the condition of the central nervous system.”
Each time we climb, Kevin eventually disappears, leaving me to my own shortcomings as a climber.  I don’t mind.  Rocks offer him solace and solitude.  They do not call him names.  They do not mistake his energetic aura for anything else.  They are rocks and that is why we came here and why he will continue to climb long after I am sidelined by the aches of an aging Baby Boomer body.
Alone on the rocks, I get a chance to conduct my favorite climbing activity: sitting on a perch, watching the dark patterns that drifting cumulus make on the blue-green landscape.  Across the narrow valley, members of a rope-climbing class from University of Wyoming take turns rappeling down a cliff.  In the far distance on Sherman Hill, a line of trucks crawl along I-80 and a freight train crosses “The Gangplank” of the Laramie Range — a granite sheet that is a centuries-old thoroughfare for Cheyenne and Arapaho, pioneers, railroaders, vacationers and truckers, those transients that have been both boon and curse to the West.
I luxuriate in the feel of the cool breeze on my face, the tart taste of an apple on a July afternoon.  Hawks ride Vedauwoo’s complex air currents. A wonderful dream, to fly like a hawk.  Some time within the next hour Kevin will shout my name and I will look up to see him waving from a pinnacle, his lanky form etched against the blue sky. “Come on up!” he will yell, and I will return his wave and shake my head.
He goes some places where I cannot follow.
Cross-posted from easytolovebut blog. Way back when, this piece appeared in a longer and slightly different form in Montana’s now-defunct Northern Lights magazine.

1 comment:

mpage225 said...

Great writing Mike. By the way, I often look back and wish I had stayed at Santa Fe CC for many years! Juco is a great place and Santa Fe was awesome.

Sam is back in Juco now too and may be there for a bit, but glad he is there.

Bob