I am undeniably a fan of winter. It’s biggest fan, you might say. The cold, the snow, even the unpredictability and unreliability of the weather. And I know that this doesn’t make sense, being that most of my favourite hobbies are summer related. Hiking, mountain biking, outdoor rock climbing, these are all warm weather activities (for the most part). But something about winter gets me excited. Maybe I’m just one of those people who are cheered up by bad weather (I do enjoy a good storm). Or is it something different?
So many people hate the first snowfall of the season and I don’t really understand this. I know that it’s not the snow they hate but what it means, the coming cold. Here in Alberta it can get pretty cold, even by my standards. Despite that, the cold brings so many things that people love, things that would have lesser meaning without it. Hot chocolate, warm fireplaces and time at home with the family, more snow, and the promise of Christmas.
This is why I don’t understand it, because regardless of the pains that winter brings, it also brings us our favourite times and memories. The good out weighs the bad. If we would just look at the big picture we could see all the joys of winter. But no, people choose to see only the cold. The terrifying, horrendous, -40 degree cold. Just layer up, you’ll be fine.
Fall. The Autumn season. It might seem like possibly the worst time of year for adventuring, but with a little ingenuity and a little luck with the weather, there are still some excellent adventures to be had. While mountain biking, skiing and the other big one season sports are mostly out of the picture, there is definitely some fun out there.
What is peace? The answer you get will depend on who you are or who you ask. According to Wikipedia “Peace is a concept of societal friendship and harmony in the absence of hostility and violence.” And well that is definitely a form of peace, what I have in mind is something a little different.
When I am in the mountains, particularly the Rockies, I’m overcome by a sense of calm and awe that I describe as peace. Not an absence of conflict. But a peace that I long for in the core of my being. A feeling of home, a call from the wild, realizing how incredibly small you are and also seeing that you’re capable of big things. A paradox. Why? What is this impression of being grounded, when all of life’s cares and worries disappear in the shadow of a majestic mountain peak. Where does it come from? Why do we seek it?
So many people spend their whole lives chasing after things that inevitably leave them empty and broken. Searching for something, anything, that will make them feel whole, but so much of it is a lie. Things that we are told to chase after because they’re supposed to make us feel good, make us happy. Why do we not rage against the trappings of these false idols? Do we not know better? We all know that one person who has that inexplicable peace about them. Where do they get it?
Being in the mountains allows me to feel closer to God, I understand more of His nature and His love. The peace that I experience in the mountains is quite simply the peace of knowing I am loved by an amazing Father. He formed the mountains with His own hands, and He knew that one day He and I would enjoy them together. The beauty of the mountains is God pointing out at every turn and saying “Hey, do you see that? I made it just for you.” This is the thing that I seek, what I spend all my time and money on. I want to be in the mountains not just because they are beautiful and there are adventures to be had. That is only a small part of it.
“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. ... Worship is as pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God ... We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God” - A.W. Tozer
I know, the new year is likely one of the most cliché writing topics out there. But in spite of all that junk out there about New Year’s resolutions, improvements for this next year and reminiscing about the past, this is still a time to celebrate. We can always take time throughout the year to make goals and set our sights forward as well as remember the past. Any goals I have for 2021 have been in place since long before people started asking about new year’s resolutions. For me a new year has only ever been a time to gather with family and friends and be grateful for what I have, basically an extension on Christmas.
New Year’s Resolutions have far too much failure attached to them to be useful to anyone. Almost anytime you hear about them it’s usually connected to how someone didn’t keep up with them for more than a week or two. I avoid making resolutions simply because it’s not the same as setting an actual goal for yourself, it’s exactly the same as making a promise with the intention of not keeping it. When you can’t keep your word to yourself, then who will you be able to keep it to?
And I know that this past year has been crazy, but we all lived it so I’m definitely not going to take the time to rehash it all. I also know that this year is not going to be any different, but it shouldn’t stop us from planning, even if the plans get cancelled, who cares? Spontaneity and taking life one step at a time is all apart of the adventure. Plans change and get cancelled, so make new plans, in the moment decisions. Just because you can’t schedule adventures like before, it doesn’t mean that life can’t be it’s own adventure anymore. Take a moment to explore and find excitement in every day. Break with the routine, make a new routine, and be spontaneous. Life was made to be taken a day at a time, second by second, so do that.
Find opportunities throughout the year to set goals, you’ll find them easier to keep than resolutions. And well you’re at it make them easy to achieve, don’t set yourself up for failure by just setting large goals, aim for something that you can accomplish by the end of the day or the end of the week. And every single one of these achievements will accelerate you towards your larger goal.
Pain. Why do we push ourselves to the point of agonizing pain and suffering just for the sake of finishing a hard climb? Or simply for the view from the top of a difficult hike? It’s a question I’ve heard time and again, from friends, coworkers, and strangers. I’ve seen it asked on the news and on the internet. Why would someone purposefully put themselves through such an intense, uncomfortable, and painful experience? Is it just for the challenge? For the adrenaline rush? Are we all just a bunch of adrenaline junkies? I don’t think the why can be so simplified or generalized. The reason is always personal and hard to quantify, it’s something everyone must decide for themselves.
You must find within yourself the willpower and rationale to go beyond the limits that have been put on you. Some of these limits have been put on us by others, people who should never have had a say or an influence on our self image. That includes the society in which we live, a world of ease, comfort, and entitlement. A world where feeling safe is more important than feeling alive and free. There is an unfulfilled need in us to go beyond, to explore, and to do battle. And there is no greater battle in the world today than the battle with ourselves. Hardwired for ease, but there is an empty place in us that is called to the unknown, to the wild. We seek to tame the inner beast of comfort, while searching out the wild around us.
Some seek to fight depression, others to prove something to themselves. Completing a challenging adventure gives us a sense of satisfaction that is rarely found in our world today. It fuels a feeling of accomplishment and gives us pride in ourselves, We no longer perceive ourselves as insecure, incompetent, or weak. Can we not now look back at an experience where we pushed our preconceived limits, where we found an inner strength that was unknown before. Even more people adventure simply for fun and that’s okay. In fact it’s great, if exploring brings you joy and you have an awesome time working out in the great outdoors, then why not do it?
But I believe that for many of us it goes deeper. Adventuring and exploring calls out to the child or the warrior within, we seek to explore and go beyond. That unclimbed wall, that month-long hike, that is the mystery we seek to know, the battlefield on which we choose to fight against the shackles and let out our souls.
I have known many difficult times with the sports that I love. Reaching out for that last hold while my arms are begging me to let go, pushing bike and body to the top of an ascent with my legs and lungs crying out for oxygen and rest. I’ve had times where I gave up only to regret it later. Other times, with every part of my body and mind saying I need to quit right now, I pushed on and persevered and I will never regret it.
Finding and pushing our limits teaches us who we are, we will learn our own strength, and find our souls and a deeper connection with God.