Longtime readers of this blog may recognize the name, Maria Schur. I had heard her interviewed on the Sprocket Podcast a couple of years ago, and we exchanged a couple of emails. In 2017, we met in the Sprocket Podcast studio. Maria continues to be an inspiration, a muse, and a person I admire. Earlier this year, while planning a stay with my cousin Jo in Portland, I also hoped to arrange a visit with Maria while in town.
When planning a time to meet with Maria, I wasn’t sure if she would be around since the Swift Summit 100/200 was being held the weekend I was in Portland. Last year Maria entered the Swift Summit but didn’t make one of the checkpoint’s cut-off times. During her interview on the Sprocket Podcast, Maria spoke about how much she wanted to try again in 2018. I was quite certain she would be riding, and finishing, this year.
To my surprise, Maria was not entering the race; and by not doing so, my respect for Maria grew even more. Two of Maria’s dear friends were getting married the same weekend as the Swift Summit, and they invited Maria to their wedding. Maria put that relationship, that friendship, ahead of an important personal goal; and she did so without regret.
Thankfully our schedules meshed, and we met in Maria’s backyard, along with Sprocket Podcast founder Brock Dittus, host, Aaron Flores, and Aaron’s girlfriend, Anna. Much of the conversation was recorded, including Maria describing the wedding. (You can listen to the podcast here: http://sprocketpodcast.blubrry.com/e430-back-porch-session-wayne-norman-maria-schur/ )
I would like to say that I’ve always put friends and family first, but I can’t, and I’m the poorer for it. Maybe it’s age, perhaps wisdom, certainly experience, and definitely learning from people like Maria and my wife, which has caused me to prioritize relationships over adventure. On my summer road trip, I visited more than three dozen friends and family members. Instead of camping or bivouacking, the majority of the nights were spent in the homes of others; and I was grateful for their company.
This does not say I don’t value adventure: I yearn for it. And I experienced more than my share on my recent excursion. Still, it was time spent with others which meant the most to me on my latest journey.
Standing in line in at a coffee & bookstore in Park City, I saw a card on a rack and immediately reached for it. The simple message on the front crystallized what I had been feeling: “True Love Is The Greatest Adventure.”
I excitedly bought the card and mailed it to my true love, but the card’s sentiment stayed with me.
Throughout the next month, my brain’s Reticular Activating System was working overtime, pointing out adventurous people in love. Looking back to that August evening on Maria’s deck, I thought of Aaron and Anna, two young intrepid spirits, in love and working things out. Brock’s wife Adele has since given birth, and they now have the awesome responsibility of raising their young son, Cyrus. Knowing Brock, Cyrus will spend a good deal of time in the outdoors and Brock & Adele will see thing anew through their child’s eyes, and their adventures will take on a new life through him.
There are only a handful of writers to whom I subscribe, whose posts and newsletters make it into my email ‘inbox’ (as opposed to showing up on Facebook.) One of these, author, filmmaker, artist, and adventurer, Brendan Leonard, has had a profound influence on me. My blog wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for him. The film ‘35’, which Brendan wrote and performed the voiceover for, is something I watch every year on my birthday, and whenever I need a reminder of what’s truly important. Brendan’s success exemplifies the importance of consistency, of keeping at it, of not giving up. (I think Make It Till You Make It: 40 Myths and Truths About Creating should be required reading for anyone thinking of following their passion.) If you read his book, Sixty Meters to Anywhere, you know Brendan has faced adversity in his life, but he has come out strong on the other side, and I was delighted when I heard he and Hilary Oliver had tied the knot (an appropriate phrase for climbers.)
Climber Alex Honnold is a serious badass. We recently watched Free Solo. (My knees still get weak thinking about it.) A major subplot of the film is his relationship with his girlfriend. I don’t want to give away too much (spoiler alert: he doesn’t die), but navigating a serious relationship may be as much of an adventure for Alex as anything he has ever climbed. (There’s a good article about this in the Los Angeles Times: http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/movies/la-ca-mn-free-solo-documentary-20180927-story.html )
Death is always waiting for us at the far end of the relationship timeline. (I once told a colleague who announced he was engaged that marriage doesn’t end well. “Death or divorce, death or divorce, there’s no happy ending.” My wife still can’t believe I said that to him.)
In 2015 celebrated author David Roberts was diagnosed with stage 4 throat cancer. In an interview with Madeleine Brand, Roberts said: “Every day becomes more valuable when you’re constantly threatened by death and by suffering leading to death. But I’ve also come to appreciate relationships more than I ever did before. Many great friendships, not only with fellow climbers, but with just friends. But also I can never say enough about how terribly supportive and vital to my continued existence Sharon has been — my wife.” (You can hear the entire interview at https://curious.kcrw.com/2018/02/facing-cancer-climber-david-roberts-reexamines-adventuring-and-extreme-risk ) Last year, the most powerful author discussion at the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival featured David Roberts. In a revealing, and at times, heart-wrenching discussion, the only instance where Roberts broke down was when trying to express his love and gratitude for his wife. As Roberts was composing himself, you could hear a pin drop in the auditorium, and I glanced at Ruth, remembering all her love and sacrifice, and wiped a tear from my eye.
The outdoors may challenge us, adventure may forge us, but relationships are what sustain us, and even when “we are not now that strength which in old days moved earth and heaven,” the grand adventure which is ‘love’ is still available to us.