I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that, for the past month, every time I hear a wave crash against our eroding shore, I flinch. I’m hypervigilante and my brain rushes to worst-case scenarios. Is beauty really worth the agita? Can I take another month of cursing the wicked wind of the west?
As a distraction, I started preparing an excerpt from Headlong for publication in Medium. The one where we find ourselves climbing the 9th highest mountain in the world without a clue. It got me back into reading about the heroically crazy people who actually decided to climb the mountain to its peak. I came to my story of Hermann Buhl, the first man to summit, in 1953.
We were walking in the footsteps of strong-willed super-achievers, willing to risk their lives for a view of the world from 26,000 feet. When the Austrian Hermann Buhl summited in 1953, he had gone on alone after his companions had returned to base camp. Fueled by a concoction of stimulant drugs, he made the peak too late to get back and had to bivouac standing upright on a ledge all night long, while holding on for dear life with one hand. Had he shown courage or only an absurd kind of say-yes bravado?
I looked up his achievement today in newspapers.com and found several articles about a spirit who supported his way back.
His story makes me feel less lonely, less crazy, living out here on the very civilized, 7-miles-to-the-grocery-store edge, fretting over my soggy shoreline. I always wanted to live big, take risks, experience the sublime. Sometimes I have to remind myself that doing that isn’t always fun. (But I’d like one of those friendly spirits, please.) Wine poured.