Monday, November 28, 2016


You shouldn't read the "Gear Reviews" page yet, because there's nothing there. Because I work in explosive segments, and then leave it to rest until I'm ready to go at it again. This website is killing me, and it's hard to keep throwing energy into it on a regular basis. But you have to do things like that, because if you don't, you fall into this rut where something is half-finished and though you're facing it head-on, you're intentionally looking the other way.

Today I made substantial gains on my book. I have to tell everyone I'm writing a book, because if I don't, it won't be done. And it must be done. I had to re-install Microsoft Word, because I needed a platform that I thought was worthy to keep track of everything. I have an exceptional amount of photos and video footage on my computer, and in order to re-install MS Word (Office, unavoidably) I had to delete some files. A lot of files.

I inquisitively watched all of my unnamed videos from questionable dates. This one was from almost one year ago, mid-December of 2015. I had just moved into a new apartment in Flagstaff, and I took a video tour of it to send my mom. At first I cringed and said aloud "Is that what I fucking sound like?" and then took in a short breath when I heard my video-self say "Dammit Cohen, move." And the video pans down to him, his head at my hip as I'm trying to navigate myself around him. You can also hear him whining softly in the background, begging to be pet and for attention to be paid to him. It's a sound I'll never hear again, and I wouldn't have been able to replicate in my mind if not for that video. I then thought of when Giselle and I were walking around downtown Ventura, just a month ago; I saw a man walking a Great Dane, and I turned to Giselle and drew a breath to say the words "I used to have a Great Dane." and stopped myself, because of course Giselle knew that. She lived with him. Giselle knew Cohen quite well. She knew me when I had Cohen. I still remember the day I told her I had to put him down. We were at Beta (the best climbing gym in Flagstaff), and I still remember the wall we were standing in front of, and I swear to god I still remember the climb we were working on. It was a traverse, and it was a V2. I remember saying the words and clenching my jaw at the sting of tears, and not being able to look her in the eye, because I knew I'd lose it. She was leaving for California the next day, and we both knew she wouldn't be there for it. We both knew I'd be alone for it.

So as we stood on that corner of two streets in Ventura and I told her what I almost said to her, I remarked on how odd it is that I'm at a point in my life where most people I interact with know me without Cohen by my side. I think there are few life events that distinct one version of yourself versus another, and that's one of mine. I wrote a blog post this past summer, early summer, about my experience putting Cohen down. I haven't had the courage to reread it until tonight, and I love it. It still rips me apart, and it's sad, but it's a very raw part of me that I am proud I wrote about. It was the worst night of my life, and I had the guts to not only relive it while writing about it, but share it with everyone I know + more. If you haven't read it, I encourage you to. Or reread it. For Cohen. And for me. It's titled "We write to taste life twice...".

This brings me around to my favorite quote of all time, which is from (my favorite author of all time) Chuck Klosterman. I've referenced this so many times before, but here it is again:

"When you start thinking about what your life was like years ago - and not in general terms, but in highly specific detail - it's disturbing to realize how certain elements of your being are completely dead. They die long before you do. It's astonishing to consider all the things from your past that used to happen all of the time but (a) never happen anymore and (b) never even cross your mind. It's almost like those things didn't happen. Or made it seems like they just happened to someone else."

Isn't that great? I tried to recall it once, recently, when I was drunk off of more than a bottle of wine. I butchered it, and I was so frustrated with myself. I don't even have that book anymore, but it's my favorite book. Chuck Klosterman has this beautiful way of intertwining his philosophies with music he listens to and his physical actions in the world. If you haven't read Killing Yourself To Live, I encourage you to. It should be at the top of your list.
The title of that work itself is striking.

The two days before Thanksgiving I spent in Moab, and it's the first mini/day-trip I've taken since my month of sabbatical/living out of my car on the west coast. I used to hate the desert, and that is so comical to me now. I still do not like running in it, but in the past year I've learned to love climbing in it, and also standing on the edge of a rock and looking out over it. There's something that happens to the soul when you see the sun rise over red - truly red - rocks that are mashed up against the Colorado River. The hues of purple and red and fiery flames it sets to your heart cannot be matched. I finally know what Evan meant when he said Moab helped heal him after his father died. I heard a stream babble from so far away, and when I got to it, when I approached this so very tiny body of running water in the desert and the one-inch fall that was making so much noise; I stuck my hands right in it and was shocked at both the frigid temperature and the sting it brought over my skin. I lifted my eyes and became incredibly aware of how restless I had felt before being there. When you are in the desert you're reminded of how powerful the Earth is. When you stare at a plant struggling to grow in-between rocks and the dry, red dirt you're reminded that sometimes growing into life is hard. And when you look at the brilliantly green leaves on that plant, you're reminded of how far your soul has come, and the enormity of a life truly lived.

And you strive for it. You strive for what you've previously felt, the extravagance of what a 24-hour day truly feels like. And you get it back. And you remind yourself that even though you live one thousand different lives while you're alive, you know what it feels like for your heart to be completely full.
And you chase it. With everything you have.


Thursday, November 10, 2016

I want, I wish, I want, I know.

In the first part of my first shift back at The Kitchen, a coworker (lovingly known as MSG) narrowed his eyes, cocked his head to the side and said "I feel like there's so much we don't know about you, Kelsey." I can't remember my reply, though I'm sure it was something allusive with a smirk or smile tagged on, but I do remember walking down those five stairs and slowly exhaling, thinking about how true that was.

I want to write so much about my recent trip. I wish you knew how strange it feels for me to call it a 'trip'. I want so badly to rip my heart out and hand it to every single reader and have them feel everything that I felt for three and a half weeks, and for awhile before that, too. I want to tell you about how my mom got so mad at me that I thought we would never speak again. I want to tell you about how hard I cried and how a lump still rises in my throat when I think about Giselle saying very softly "I'm sorry. She should be proud of you." I want to tell you about how I got some of my climbing confidence back after leading a few routes at The Pit in Flagstaff. I want to tell you how scared I was to down-climb because I ran out of quickdraws. I want to tell you how hard it is to sleep when you're too cold. I want to tell you how many times we tried to make pour-over coffee work for us. I want to tell you I spent 21 days with the same person, every waking and sleeping moment, and how much fun everything was. I want to tell you about how we ate an entire block of cheese and then went for an 11 mile run and I wish you could have felt my heartbeat when I left Joshua Tree because uncertainty was flowing through my veins. I want to tell you how many texts and Facebook messages I ignored from people of almost every part of my life because I didn't have any sort of answers to any sort of questions. I want to tell you about how when people ask what my favorite part is, I have no idea how to answer, because mostly what comes to my mind is how unsure I was of myself and of the world around me; yet in the moments outside of those times I was so confident in every word, thought and physical action. It wasn't as though I was in two different places at the same time, but rather bouncing back and forth so violently that I could only plan my life one hour at a time, because I wasn't sure how I was going to feel or what I was going to think the next day. Most of all, I wish you could feel how hard I laughed, or how badly it stung when I relentlessly licked my chapped lips.

I want to tell you how important music is to me, because I know it's just as important to you. I want you to know that every time I hear the song Indian Summer by Jai Wolf, I'm hit with one thousand memories from our trip. It hits so hard that I actually feel like my skin is still dark from the desert sun, my forearms are still tight from climbs, my body still feels exhausted at night from truly trying, Giselle and I are still laughing and rapping and talking about living life outside of everyone else's. I'm still staring out the window as we drive across the desert and wondering how long the Jet Boil fuel will last us, and we're still asking each other "What day is it? What time is it? What's the date? Is it still October? I can't remember where I put ____. Where is the ____...? When was the last time we showered? Can I use your toothpaste?"

In real and present time, she just sent me a video from her phone of part of the trip. We got to Crested Butte when it was dark, and we drove my car through a large puddle, it's depth still in question. And it's hilarious. And I already forgot about it. I completely forgot about the moment I thought I had fucked my car up, when we were only 6 hours into our road trip.

That was exhausting. I knew that I was going to come back to Denver quite quickly after I left. In fact, I told Giselle and one other person immediately. I had a date set and I had the end of a plan, or beginning of a plan, worked out in my head and in my finances in a matter of moments. I was leaning against the front of my car while Giselle set up her tripod for night photos, watching the sun sink as the mountains of Ouray towered above us in every direction and the lights of the small town started to spark below. I had my right foot crossed in front of my left, and as my right hand rubbed my chin and lower lip I said "I'm going to write a book. I think I have to." And as my eyes shifted to the right to see her direct reaction, Giselle flawlessly replied with "I think that's an incredible idea. You should. You don't live a normal life."

So that's what I'm working on. All of the time. I'm also working up an article right now that I think is a lot of fun, and separate from the book, and I'll still keep trying to publish smaller work. But that is what I'm up to. That is one of the very huge things I am up to. The second is training to break the Fastest Known Time on the John Muir Trail in August 2017. The third is unpublishable.

photo credit: Giselle Fernandez 

"What comes after an incredible road trip with your best friend? Anxiety. Yesterday, Kelsey and I completed 11 days on the road from Denver to Crested Butte to Ouray to Arches NP to Canyonlands NP to Horseshoe Bend to Flagstaff to Joshua Tree NP. I am overwhelmed with the desire to save all the memories we made from the things we said and did and all of our jokes (because we are hilarious). I want to remember even the most seemingly insignificant details, like using water gallons for tent stakes or munching on a block of cheddar cheese through the desert car ride. We had some breakthrough ideas and we had some useless ideas (cue failed filtered coffee moment). And as I come to accept that I’ll forget a lot of special moments from this trip in the coming years, I am comforted with truly knowing I will never forget how I felt through it all."
-Giselle Fernandez

Follow Giselle on Instragram @gisellewanders to see the full post of the above quote.