November 5th, 2011 by Rose
For Lisa, David, Mary, Dan, John, Jo and Blake
*This began as advice for my two nieces as they marry concerning what I have discovered about the long haul. But reading a friend’s memoir of how he has surivived and succeeded through a life of personal struggle and pain makes me see that we are speaking of ANY long haul. In all our struggles, we are with others, sometimes a significant other, but ultimately, though in community, our climb can only be alone.
How do I do it? That’s the question when you’re getting married, into a relationship or beginning any struggle that looks to be long term. The first piece I ever wrote and sold was a description of my honeymoon. It was called, ‘Married on the Mountain,’ (True Confessions, 1975, maybe August). In some part of my brain I knew that I had just promised to metaphorically go for the long climb.
Now, after 47 years with another, I am an experienced guide, urging you to be sure to cover the basics: physical training, entry requirements, gear. You get your passport at the *ceremony but unlike Kilimanjaro, there aren’t any immunizations, vaccinations and certainly no travel insurance. (* If you opt for one)
I went to websites on Climbing Kilimanjaro for their advice. The categories and Italicized subheads are all theirs. The explanations are mine.
What Gear Do I Need To Bring? *Note – [you are responsible for personal items and equipment] (so start with such personal qualities as will equip you for the trip: an open mind, generosity, patience, tenderness, trust and patience enabling you to grow and change throughout the journey).
Technical Clothing: 1) Waterproof for the tears. 2) Insulated for the unintentional insults. 3) Soft for the wrath it can turn away. 4) Hiking pants for those many steep places where all you can do is climb. 5) Short sleeve shirts to show your vulnerability. Long sleeve shirts for hugging and holding. 6) Shorts (optional). 6) Fleece pants for keeping on when things turn cold.
Headwear: On straight. No Balaclava to hide face and emotion. Say what you mean.
Handwear: Soft. Durable – Must stand up to frequent holding, shoulder pats, lifting.
Footwear: Hiking boots – broken in (through many prior trips together) warm and with spare laces, which you will need on this rocky, bumpy journey with more ups and downs than an expresso machine but more stimulating).
Accessories: 1) Pee bottle to avoid leaving tent at night. *Note – [Doesn’t work in later years when no matter what you do eventually you HAVE to leave the tent), 2) Backpack – Most climbers take too much. Travel light. Put no value in things. 3) Water bottle – Keep filled. Share what you’ve got. 4) Sunglasses – To help you see things as they are. 5) Stuff Sacks – to keep gear dry and separate * Note – [*You are not him and he is not you. You travel together, not wet but separate]
Equipment: 1) Sleeping Bag/Liner/Pad (4 Seasons) Another part of intimacy is the vulnerability of sleep and its lack of control). 2) Treking Poles: Strongly advised: Support systems that you build all your life. Friends, Confidants. 3) Head lamp with extra batteries: Read to keep your lamp lit. Reflect. Come to understand. Trust. 4) Duffel Bag: For porters to carry your equipment, ie – (mechanic/plumber, repair people for appliances, house, relationships) 5) Daypack: For you to carry your personal gear – medical/family/emotional history & those solutions you have found so far.
Other: 1) Prescriptions (Useful advice you’ve garnered here & there. (see 1st aid kit) 2) Sunscreen (stay safe as you can but do not insulate yourself from that daily goodness which falls softly on you from the world around). 3) Lip Balm (for all that mandatory kissing). 4) Insect Repellant: (“I’m no longer looking.” “I’m NOT interested.” “I’m Married.” “GO AWAY.”) 5) First Aid Kit: (2nd Aid & 3rd Aid kits such as the Desiderata or Rules For Being Human or Agnes Repplier who said: “It is not easy to find happiness in ourselves and it is not possible to find it elsewhere,” maybe along with some old Ann Landers or other sane advice giver. .
Also: 1) Hand Sanitizer (Mind & Heart sanitizers – Pledge to cease cruising THOSE websites, change status to TAKEN, close down those profiles. 2) Toilet Paper & Wet Wipes- The ‘sickness & in health’ stuff where trust, always a necessity, becomes vital. 3)Snacks: The mundanity of grocery and drug store, daily/weeklyness of the must dos.
Pencil & Notebook- Keep your own personal, throughout your life, filling its pages step by step as you climb and climb again with ideas, song to check out, books to read, snippets of advice, old jokes you still find funny.
Camera – Click away but place much in the memory so that you may be always entertained, looking back with pleasure, steadfastly eschewing regret.
Where Does The Climb Begin?
It started when you met, (or were diagnosed, or suddenly saw what you must do), progressing upward ever since. It is a tough slog with unexpected switchbacks and crevices full of broken rock that insure a great many become statistics but then it IS a great mountain and you are to be congratulated for attempting the climb at all.
It is a climb this
marriage, relationship, struggle thing even
with training and all
the gear, overnight boot
camps in the foothills. Sure
listen to those who have
climbed, what they brought
along like humour, memory
of good times, jettisoning
expectation but every climb’s
different and they are not you just
starting at the foothills with an
entire mountain of together looming
in the less breathed air at the top where
oxygen is required, few trails up
blazed by those where love remained rather
than simple proximity, endurance, inertia.
There isn’t a Marriage/Relationship/Struggle
Society with an award, banquet
and a writeup in the magazine even
though you remain, not whining that
hardly anyone makes the climb
anymore give up when the climbs too
steep as it will be soon as the ceremony’s
over, the inevitable crisis chants “this is
how it will always be’ till you see
nothing ahead but an obscuring fog where
wild dances do not commence but you
blaze your trail an expression that
means set it on fire, till your
intimacy grows like the amazing 50
ft woman whom you could not
imagine but she’s there all
these years as long as you
have breath she is
slathered on the
esteem always lifting the
fog showing you the
view, why the climb is
worth it, looking down the
chasms you skirted, false
trails at the start even somewhere in
the middle when you lost the
way, began to doubt the summit which
happens to the most experienced but
the mist goes as it will when you
call out and from the darkness of
this mountain love’s voice answers and
you climb once more together
new vistas open, sights unseen by
anyone before in just this
way, long past the post where
banquets would take place, anniversaries
whip by, breeze on the face; summer
hot, winter sharp but ah the spring there
on the mountain this thing you have
climbed all these years, real with
risk, heartbreak and death in an
ascension greater with
every step breathing the air some
believe to be rarefied, melted into
the other like a cheese sandwich one
strong being to tackle all that lies
ahead even at advanced age so
worth it that you wonder why no
smooth talker ever sidled
up whispering from the
unshaven corner of his
mouth all the rewards out
here glittering brighter than
prizes on The Price Is Right when
at last you stand and look back
down the avalanches and
rockslides through the rifts and
runnels to right now where
the sun shines down.

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