Climbing is definitely not something that appeals to me. Neither is anything too strenuous or active for that matter!
But climbing is part and parcel of childhood and as I grew up in the countryside, outdoor play was an important part of my childhood. Climbing trees, walls or mountains never lit my fire, the very opposite in fact. GIVE ME A LIBRARY OR LET ME BROWSE IN A STATIONERY SHOP AND THEN I FELT AT HOME. For as long as I can remember I’ve had a love affair with stationery. Just as most girls reached for foundation and mascara I’d reach for coloured writing paper and envelopes or enjoy the feel of different pens in my hands.
But when I was a child I loved when the hay in our ‘haggart’ as it was known, was cut and bailed and stacked on top of each other to dry.
I was happy to climb those bales and make cabbie houses in, around and on top of them. We probably had biceps to match any of today’s regular gym goers, from the vast amount of bales we dragged from one part of our haggart to another constructing our hay castles. We would play ‘tig’, a game of chase, around the hay bales for hours on end, only going indoors when we were hungry or called for dinner. We were always a little sad when the tractor and trailer arrived to tear down our amazing hay creations and transport them to our neighbour’s haybarn.
Friday night was bath night, yes, you heard right… crazy by today’s standards to think we got a bath once a week and we even shared the water! TEENAGERS NOWDAYS WOULD RECOIL AT THE VERY THOUGHT! I can still recall the burning, stinging pain all over my body when deep scrapes, from the rough edges of the coarse hay came in contact with the warm bath water. There was nothing for it but to apply lavish amounts of Sudocrem!
On Sundays my mam would pack a picnic and dad would drive us to the Comeragh mountains outside Carrick on Suir, County Tipperary. We were crowded into our car, 3 generations…2 parents, a grandmother ‘Nana’, myself, my younger sister and two brothers. Seven in a car, no safety belts back then!
We often climbed to lake Coumshingaun. This lake was said to be bottomless. It was also, reportedly, inhabited by the devil. The devil must have liked a change from the fires of hell if he could tolerate the cold of that lake because even on the warmest day in summer, we would come shivering and blue out of that mountain water!
I preferred it when we would walk the winding but relatively level mountain path into the beautiful waterfall. After our walk we’d park at a ‘table and chairs’ picnic place to eat roast chicken and drink coke chilled from the mountain stream. I can see that enchanting forest now in my minds eye as clear as I saw it back when I was 10 or 12.
After a day or two of heavy rain the mountain stream turned into a tumbling, thundering, torent of water, fighting its way over and around pebbles, rocks and bolders, chasing its way down stream. We ran alongside that stream, as free and as happy as spring lambs released into a lush green meadow. We stepped from rocks to bolders, navigating our way from one bank of that mountain stream to the other. We often fell and grazed our hands and knees as the slippery rocks caught us unawares and the Sudocrem had to come to our rescue again!
But the years slipped past and childhood adventures gave way to the climb towards first jobs, first love and young marriage. The transient hay castles were replaced by the permanence of bricks and mortar. Life had its own slips and falls, as it pushed onwards, advancing with each year as we scramble to achieve and amass more possessions along the way.
But if like me, you are lucky and one day, wake up to realise, that the climbing is not about what we have amasses but rather that the climb is to a place of awareness, a place where we are comfortable in our own skin, where we know with certainty what we hold dear in life. Then our climb is to a place of peace, to a place where we are free… free from the judgement of others and above all free from self judgement.
How has your climb been? Have you reached a place of peace?