I Boulder

10 Tue, 2011 § 5 Comments

I’m a boulderer;

or rather, I boulder.

[on Tranced Out & Dreaming in Ibex, Utah by David Finch]

Give me a rock with a few, fun, strenuous, limit moves, I’m content to fall off it for hours.

Sometimes, it doesn’t make sense.

Because I don’t like falling.

Actually, I don’t mind falling; it’s hitting the ground I dread, even from a short distance.  Considering the bad ankle sprain I earned after one of my first gym bouldering sessions, this is a reasonable fear.

Even before a boulder starts to approach true “high ball” status, I might burst into tears in my desperation to top out.  In these moments, I’d give anything not to hit the ground; I’d much rather be taking my fall tied into the end of a rope 60 feet up.

So why boulder?

Bouldering strips rock climbing to an even bearer, rawer state.  Little equipment is required.  If I was truly a purist, I’d be climbing naked, chalkless & shoeless.  Once I step up to the rock, “the mechanism clears”: it’s just me…the rock…my body…moving with the stone…yielding to its permanence…pushing the bounds of my own limits.  There is no physical reward at the “top” — no significant or measurable height achieved; no bird’s-eye view — only the victory of inner growth, the submission of the ego (beaten down by falling over & over again) & a connection with what is truly greater than all else.


Bouldering isn’t the only rock climbing I do; but when I need to touch rock now, the most natural tug leads me out the door with a simple pair of shoes, a pad (or two or three) & a little chalk.


Where do you find presence?

Indian Creek & Our Damp Solitaire

27 Wed, 2011 § 10 Comments

Our new route to Indian Creek, Utah is one of my favorites.  Monument Valley is stunning & diverse.  Even though driving home & back to “reality” can be disheartening, I can think of worse views.

[photo by David Finch]

Clouds, often responsible for creating nice, filtered light & ominous skies for photos, plagued much of our camping trip.

[by Allie]

Rainy days meant fewer climbing days, because wet rock should not be climbed, though many choose to ignore this common sense & decency law.  The weather treated us to a lesson in Being & patience as we were left to fill more days than expected with “rest day” activities.

One morning we took advantage of National Park Week & the waived fees to trek into Canyonlands.  We intended to hike to the confluence of the Colorado & Green Rivers.  The longer-than-anticipated, already quick-paced hike was cut short when we turned & ran 3 – 4 miles back to our little, awaiting Eisley.  I would definitely call this an advanced running trail & hope we actually make it to the confluence next time.

Another rainy afternoon, we retreated into the tent for card games.  Much of our time was spent reading to each other though.  We took turns reading chapters from Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey, beautifully written & highly enlightening.  I was tickled (yes, tickled) when Dave asked me to read aloud to him.  The simple act of sharing a book felt fresh & intimate, especially because we were immersed in pages so fresh with passion & intimate with love for the desert.

Though the rain spoiled some of our “plans”, it offered us time to reflect inward, connect outward & recognize its precious presence in this beautiful desert.


Do you ever read aloud with others?

“Nothing Tastes as Good as Being Skinny Feels”

16 Sun, 2011 § 14 Comments

Love My Body part I

I had already felt like crying the day I read that quote.  Its endorsement nearly pushed me over the edge.  I had been looking for motivation…but not of this genre.  My favorite workout blog had been back up & running for awhile now; I was shocked it had taken me this long to check out the new layout.  This counsel from a fellow follower threw me deeper into the shallow body image paradigm I was struggling to overcome.  She attributed the quote to Kate Moss.  As a responsible blogger, I should verify; but I just cannot bring myself to read anymore concerning this mentality.

I had worked so hard to establish & feel good about my body.  Recently, I had started falling into old habits, such as comparing.  I won’t be fit until I have abs like that.  My arms aren’t good enough until they look like hers. I went online looking for motivation & was hit with self-deprivation.

I continued to browse over workouts & new features, like photos & posts from followers about their progress.  One woman shared her amazing journey, then nearly negated everything she had accomplished by focusing on what she “still needed to get rid of” [her lower tummy pooch].

I wanted to hug her & shake her & tell her to not be self-deprecating & disempowering.  Be proud of what you have done!  Be proud of how strong you are! I scanned comments & though she received a lot of congrats, the only mention of the tummy pooch comment offered her “the trick”.

Only one half serving of fruits, no sugars, no grains & no breads per day.  Try this for a couple of weeks religiously, & you should see a reduction in “puffiness”.  If you keep going, maybe you can kill off the pooch.

I understand limiting sugar & processed grains, but all grains & almost no fruit?  As someone who relies on crucial energy to do what I love to do, my body needs these foods.  Isn’t it more important we eat a balanced diet, nourishing our bodies?

Needless to say, I needed to switch paradigms…before I got stuck in a place I did not want to be…a place that makes me very unhappy.

So what to do?  For me.  Right now.


Focus on appreciating how strong & healthy my body is.  Appreciate what it can do.  Commit to making it stronger.  Treat my body lovingly.  No deprivation.  No comparisons.  Remove the focus from how I look to what I can do.  Some of the strongest, most athletic people do not have the “perfect body” look.  Our bodies are amazing, capable of so much.  Why do we struggle with feeling the need to perfect our bodies through appearance?  Why not through performance?

[We did not get any photos this weekend but decided to return here to work this traverse since it was one of the driest areas.]

With the cold weather & the snow [& an over-priced climbing gym], climbing has not been possible the last couple months.  My body & mind have missed it.  With 40 degree days, we jumped on the chance to touch rock this weekend.  It felt good to test my body & connect with the earth.

It felt just as good to nourish it rather than deprive it.

I started my days with fueling foods,

like barley & lentils mixed with Natalie’s Spicy Thai Chili, which is delicious & packs some heat!

I listened to my body’s cravings; Uncle Sam cereal with raspberry kefir & a sprinkle of cacao nibs was one of these.

I kept it going while out & about with even more random creations.

[I will share more of these little guys tomorrow.]

I feel like I nearly sunk into a superficial pool but was able to wade to the shores of a healthier mindset.  Did I make it on my own?  No.  I will share more of that tomorrow as well. 🙂

I hope you have enjoyed your weekend as much as I have.


Are you happy about your body?  Is your own body image paradigm a healthy one?

Cobra Inspiration

6 Mon, 2010 § 3 Comments

Meet my Cobras.

My favorite climbing shoes.

La Sportivas are the glass slipper of climbing shoes; at least for me they are.  I have a slightly high arch, & they fit like a glove.

Initially I was too sensitive to the thin midsole of the Cobras, but I quickly fell in love with being able to “feel” the rock through the shoes.  They are respondent & just aggressive enough whether I’m on overhanging routes or steep boulders.

Before Sunday they were just typical climbing shoes, except that they said “DEMO” all over them — but I would never complain about a pair of brand new climbing shoes that  I scored  for $25 last winter.  No, not me, I am definitely not complaining.  Especially about my favorite pair.

On Saturday Christine mentioned something about my random “DEMO” shoes…& I’m not sure which of them had the sudden stroke of genius, but Dave or Christine suggested I write other words all over them so you wouldn’t even noticed DEMO.  Actually, that was just a good idea, I had the stroke of genius ;).  I wouldn’t just write any words.  I would write strong, meaningful, inspiring & motivating words — words that would help me stay mindful of my intentions while climbing.

I was never one of those girls in jr. high who wrote on my shoes or jeans, but it’s never too late to start I suppose.

I considered writing one word each time before climbing…but I got excited.

I did leave a little room to add more though should inspiration strikes.

This whole idea of rewording my Cobras occurred after I sent “the warm up“.  Remember when I panicked & bailed a couple weeks ago?  This time I took a deep breath & thought “just climb”.  Rather than getting nervous, I looked for the next hold & kept moving.  Where I froze & crumbled before, I saw the holds that were there, extended & felt my way through with ease.  No over-thinking or blame shifting my way off this time.  It felt great to overcome my former hesitations & just enjoy the climb.

[Not “the warm up”.  This is me top-roping Solomon about a month ago.]

While we have been staying here, Promised Land has felt like our home playground.  A beautiful weekend of climbing was a nice way to say “goodbye” to the area.


Did you have a fun weekend?

Do you have any thing that motivates you or reminds you of your intentions or goals?  [Like my word shoes]  What words drive you?

The Zone

23 Tue, 2010 § 1 Comment

Have you ever been In.the.Zone?

Your body & mind are working just hard enough that everything comes together without overloading.

Your focus narrows & time seems to slow.  Your mind & body connect, making micro-responses you may not even be conscious are happening.  Your heart is racing but not at the verge of bursting from your chest.

It is your instincts at their most efficient.

In the audio book Blink, Malcolm Gladwell refers to this as the “optimal range of arousal”: when your heart is beating 115 – 145 bpm.  He talks about it in the most extreme cases, such as a police officer responding during a gun battle with an assailant, to the less-than-lethal circumstances, like the mindset in which Larry Bird played basketball.

Dave & I have talked about this zone as prioritizing perceptions: tuning in to only the imminent.  Obviously, we relate to it most in terms of climbing.

I have this theory that in order to harness this “optimal range of arousal” & be able to “control” it — or at least not lose control — you have to visit the zone often & work on not going over it.  Like anything, you have to train in order to be prepared when you are faced with those situations.  You have to be willing to put yourself in a state where your heart races, your body is at its limit & your mind teeters between complete focus & utter disarray.

This is Solomon — one of the best climbs.  I am far from sending it clean, but it is a perfect project in the physical aspect.  It kicks my butt.  Next door is Golden Idol: a good “head” project for me.  Even though it’s easier, a couple of the clips are sketchy [definition: feels unsafe] for someone my height.  All I think is “if I fall before that clip…I’m going to hit that ledge…”  This sort of thinking doesn’t work.  I have not fallen at these spots on top-rope; but when I think of leading it, I’m so afraid I will.  I need to change the way I approach this climb.

After my mental disintegration on the warm-up climb last week, I’ve been trying to figure out how to overcome hitting “the wall”.  I think I need to put myself outside of my comfort zone more often & work through it.

I’m anxious to get back our there, get into the zone & work through my fears.


Higher intensity on the rock isn’t the only thing consuming my mind lately.

I have seriously been craving pancakes — buckwheat pancakes to be exact — then Natalie made pretty pumpkin-infused, whole-grain ones Saturday.  Oh yeah, we were definitely making pancakes Sunday.  These would be the perfect fuel before climbing.

Pumpkin Buckwheat Pancakes

The rain spoiled our plans for climbing, so these became our rainy day pancakes.  Pancakes make everything better…even a drizzly day.

These almost didn’t happen though.  Somehow the buckwheat flour I scooped from the bulk bin — or thought I scooped — didn’t make it into our grocery bags!  Yes, I panicked…but quickly realized I had buckwheat groats.  Phew.  I was already going to grind quinoa to make flour; why not grind buckwheat as well?

It wasn’t as fine as buckwheat flour you’d buy at the store — more of a meal — but I’d say it worked just fine.

Initially I wasn’t sure what I thought of these dense, grainy, not-so-pretty pancakes — my homemade flours probably lent to the texture — but adding a little pumpkin butter between layers sweetened them just enough.

You can find the recipe here.

Other than making my own flours, I used almond meal instead of corn flour.  I also didn’t have molasses on hand, so I just left it out.

I’d say one craving has been satisfied…now if it will just stop storming so we can climb…


What are your rainy day solutions?  We played “Ticket to Ride”, then Dave & Christine rocked out on RockBand.

Do you like to push it outside your comfort zone in terms of sports & recreational intensity?

The Rest of My Day

17 Wed, 2010 § 4 Comments

So what did I mean yesterday when I said “most” of my day flowed smoothly?

After establishing my intent to see things for what they are, not let anything get to me & just work with it, my day went smoothly…I was happy…mellow…calm.

I was like water & the day flowed

until I hit a wall while I was about 40 feet off the ground.

I got off to a bumpy start on the warm up [not the actual climb above] because it was more awkward than I had expected.  I winced & wined but pulled through.  I was at my 4th bolt, debating which path to take over a ledge, & — BAM — I slammed into the wall.  I.did.not.want.to.be.there.

It isn’t a “physically challenging” wall — this climb is well within my physical capabilities — it’s psychological.  I’m sketched & afraid; my head isn’t in it.  When I hit this wall, there is generally one of two ways to handle it:

A. Shift the blame to someone else, like the “bolters” who needlessly exaggerated the space between bolts or the fact that “we haven’t been climbing routes enough to feel confident” or onto my “belayer” because he’s not sure which way the route goes & I convince myself he is getting impatient [which is never the case].

I am focusing on the past, which obviously isn’t useful.  Then my brain jumps to future prospects, one of them being falling.  Now that’s all I can think about.  So of course, I fall…or give up, which actually feels worse.


B. Accept that I am the one climbing, I can’t change the situation of the rock, bolts, etc. & only I can do anything at that instance.

It is not the ego’s sense of “I” here.  It is accepting that I always have a choice in every situation I am ever in.  Only I can really do anything about it.  It is submitting to the presence & not glancing sideways, worrying about the future or the past, which are generally negative thoughts.  What can I do now?

Monday, I succumbed to choice A & gave up…left to freak out about the fact I just bailed on the warm up!  😦

After talking with Dave, I realized the moments I break through the wall, I am usually muttering something to myself like “I am totally lost here [on this climb]…”I have no idea what I’m doing”…I actually laugh…& think “oh well”…risk it — just go for it — “I’ll figure it out”.  If I don’t, yeah I fall, but only a few feet.  I’m not going to die.  I don’t think about falling; I only think about how I am climbing at that moment.

Life is a lot like this when we hit “walls”.  We can go with A & focus on everything except the task at hand OR be present & own it.


Did I tell you what Dave’s “intention” for the day was?  To make me laugh hysterically.  I thought this was a worthy intention 😉 & couldn’t help but be anxious for its execution.  If I knew it was coming though, it wouldn’t work, right?


He succeeded.  More impressive yet: he made me laugh…hysterically…only moments after I had been crying over the climb.  I know he’s beyond amazing.  You don’t have to say it. 😉


Not only will I start the day off by “shaping intention”, I will take a moment before doing things like climbing & determine my intention for that experience.  I did this a couple times while climbing with my friend Polly, & we always had “successful” experiences.  I’m not sure what else to do, but I hope this helps.

What do you usually do when you hit the “wall”?

After Dark

15 Mon, 2010 § 9 Comments

Remember when you were a kid & the sun going down was a lame excuse to stop playing?

Especially when it is only 6:30pm — seriously, how does it get this dark so early?!

On our last trip to Priest’s Draw, there were no excuses & no parents to beg.  After the sun went down, we pulled out the lantern & Dave threw himself at this beast of a problem in the dark.

It actually triggered a bit of homesickness as I though about hunting/camping trips with my family; we would always get up before the sun & set out while it was still dark.  I always froze amidst the predawn frost, but the thought of being left behind at camp was unbearable.  This is one of my most cherished memories, & I deeply wish to relive it.  There is something raw, mysterious & beautiful about experiencing nature in the dark through action, rather than just the usual sitting around a campfire.

I wish I had brought a few more layers to bundle up in & not left my gloves in the car :(.  It wasn’t the dark that got to me — it was the cold!  Though I was freezing by the time we hiked out, walking beneath the stars was amazing.  I love being in a place that I can actually see the stars at night.

My hometown is drenched in stars.  This is something I had missed since moving away from home.  Now we have stars again.  🙂

As promised: more bouldering photos of Priest Draw so you can see the style of climbing by daylight.

Triangle Boulder is a good warm up just off the road.

Slopey, but fun slopey. 😉

I dig the roofs at the Draw & am determined to master this problem.

I am also counting on quite a few more late-night sessions.  🙂


Now for a dish I am super excited to share with you!  Even though we didn’t have this dish the night we stayed out, it would be perfect for those after-dark-bouldering-sessions…or whatever keeps you out…or those busy days that almost get away from you…

You can throw it together before hand, keep it in the fridge & pop it in the oven to warm through when you get home.  Heck, this might even freeze well if that’s your style.

The ingredients are simple — I even feared the plain tomato sauce would be bland.  Boy was I wrong; these flavors were beyond delicious & the texture was absolutely amazing — very reminiscent of ricotta — the whole household loved it.

Tofu-Kale Baked Penne with Mushrooms

Adapted from Baked Stuffed Shells in Clean Food

~4 servings

  • ~8 oz penne pasta

Cook according to directions in a pot of boiling water.

Strain & set aside.

  • 1 Onion, chopped
  • 4 large cloves Garlic, minced

Saute in EVOO in large pan over medium heat until soft, ~5 minutes.

  • ~10 Button Mushrooms, quartered

Add to pan & brown slightly.

  • ¼ C Mirin [Japanese rice cooking wine]
  • 2 tsp dried Basil

Add to pan & stir.

  • 1 block [14-oz] Firm Tofu [I found this really great Wild Wood Organics “sprouted” tofu I love]

Wrap in paper towel [or kitchen towel], sandwich between two plates & press ~10 minutes by setting something heavy like a kettle full of water on top of the top plate to remove excess liquid.

Crumble tofu into pan, stir to combine with other ingredients & cook ~5 minutes.

  • 2 bunches Kale, torn into [bite-sized] pieces

Fold kale into tofu mixture & continue cooking until soft & wilted.

Season with salt & pepper.

  • 1 [15-oz ]can organic Tomato Sauce, divided into 3 parts

In a baking dish, layer

tomato sauce


tofu mixture


tomato sauce

tofu mixture


tomato sauce

Top with cheese if desired.

Cover with foil & bake at 375*F for 15 – 20 minutes.

Remove foil, bake 5 – 10 minutes longer.


Have I mentioned we are only able to bake in a toaster-oven right now?  I forgot to measure the baking dish before I made the beautiful layers…& it didn’t fit into the toaster-oven…so…everything just ended up completely mixed together as it was transferred to another pan…

& it was still amazing.


This is one of the tastiest dishes I have had.


Do you ever play after dark? [I mean outside.]

What are your favorite pasta dish combinations?  [This was my first time “baking” pasta — I don’t think it’s possible to screw it up even when winging it.]

The Dells

4 Thu, 2010 § 8 Comments

We have all been warned about a restaurant, right?  Our friends spare us by not sparing the details: bad service…dirty…poor atmosphere…terrible food…you’ll leave feeling awful.

The Dells are the climbing-area-equivalent of that restaurant.

We have heard nothing about the Dells that would make us want to visit: poor rock quality…falls apart in your hands…it’s painful, sharp…you’ll leave feeling awful.

Now when your friends suddenly turn & ask if you want to go to that horrible restaurant, you would call them crazy, right?

Dave is just that crazy…

& I’m crazy enough to follow…

We met a friend in Arizona who “loves the Dells”: Kevin has spent 20+ years developing the area.  It’s his playground, & he is pretty partial to it…& when someone invites you to his spot…well, we don’t turn down climbing.

So how was it?

Like climbing on a slab plastered in

There is no way to distinguish between “grains” that will mercilessly pierce your fingertips [oh yeah, I bled] or those that are going to simply crumble from the wall.

But I led the first climb of the day: a mixed route, meaning I clipped a couple bolts as well as placed some of my own gear.  Not confident in my trad leading [a.k.a. placing my own gear], this was perfect practice for me.

This success alone made the whole day worth it,

& Kevin has put up some pretty crazy routes.

Oh no, there’s a gap coming up.


This felt so much sketchier than it looks [even on top-rope] & I don’t know if I could have brought myself to do it without the rope.

We got on some really great climbs & not all of the rock was poor quality & crumbly — you just have to know where to go.  While I did leave in pain & was completely over the wind [it was so bad on Saturday], we certainly didn’t leave feeling awful.

Guess it’s not like “that restaurant” after all. 😉

We’ll dine again.

Just the Rock

24 Tue, 2010 § 2 Comments

Fading away in dejection, two weeks had passed; I was still depressed, lacking appetite & the desire for human interaction.  Shut the door.  Block out the world, a part of me taunted.  Curl into yourself & sleep.

Instead, I succumbed to another part urging me to get over it: I reached for the door knob; twisting it, I entered the world again.  I had to get out.  I had to live.



I had only attempted it a few times & it had been weeks — maybe even a month — since my last go.  As I stepped through the doors of the climbing gym, I knew my melancholy had made me weak but I bouldered anyway.  I could not hide but still needed to get away & think — no, clear my head — be alone.

Just be.

That day, I only saw the plastic.  I only felt my hands grasping, reaching to the next hold.  I keyed into my foot pointing, toeing solidly into the wall.  I felt gravity but was more aware of my body —  my muscles contracting; my breath moving in rhythm.  Falling never crossed my mind.  I simply climbed.  My heart felt happy.  In that moment, only I existed.

I have found few things with which I can connect, fold myself into & become completely present.  Every time I touch the rock, I am seeking the presence I found that day at the gym.  Unfortunately, too often, that experience is not recaptured.  I am constantly distracted by & at war with my ego. When I do find presence, I climb harder & often — though not always — with a sense of ease.  More than that though, I appreciate what it offers & enjoy climbing most during these moments.  It is when I do not limit myself with assumptions about the route, the grade, my own expectations…when my ego fades & I do not compare myself to other climbers…& when fear is overcome…I can simply be.

Only the rock & my body exist.  I simply climb.  So tuned in, it is only my subconscious reacting.   Releasing my mind, I let my body connect with the rock.  When there is more, I fall.  When I let distractions in, I fall.

Falling is not a bad thing if you are pushing your limits.  In fact, falling is even good for the ego; but when it is because of the ego, more than just falling is at stake.  It taints our experiences, leading to frustration & obsession with external concerns.

I miss climbing.  I miss tuning into my body…connecting with the nature of the rock & working with it rather than fighting against it.  I miss finding presence through this moving meditation, taking what I learn & practicing it off the rock as well as on.  I miss giving my ego a bit of a beating. 😉

It is time to get back on the rock & recapture what I have lost: to see only the rock — to see, feel & concern myself with this moment only — to gently urge myself,

Be Here Now.


What have you lost to the world?  Are you ready to recapture it?

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