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Sep 222008
 

by Sean Patrick Leary


What is it about the early sun on the snow that makes a girl more beautiful?  Fresh, new, pure, alive.  That day we walked together, bundled close, into the enveloping white of the canyon.  The snow crunched under our feet, mile after mile on the steeps.  It is quiet and we are alone, the endless glittering canyon ours.  We walk together, hands grasping hands as we slide on the descent through the stoic trees.  We take our time in the sensual cold, we are in no hurry. When our purchase drops away we hold tight – staring eye to eye through misting breath, and we respect the quiet.

In our wash we fasten our crampons and they skeek into the ice – sharp, loud.  We are found out and move together, purposefully toward the fall.  In our window above the main river gorge we stand together.  The river is frozen, reflecting light back to us.  Here I set the top rope and we rappel together down our frozen waterfall like a cloud in the sky.

She climbs first and I am her lifeline.  I belay from below, her shape flexing along the contours above.  My style is stiff – power only, but she is supple, lithe, agile, graceful. She is everything.  I lean back in my harness and watch – she consumes me and I hold her tight.

Then I rip into the ice, determined to reach her.  I throw my axes like tomahawks, kick into the alpine ice with bladed crampons, releasing my anticipation.  Right hand left foot, left hand right foot, I pull, strive, burn, struggle, until I find my rhythm.  I see blue water run under the ice, warmed by the heat of the earth.  I watch the running waterfall through my transparent looking glass, know there is danger here, and am mesmerized.  Sweating in the negative temperature I peel down to short sleeves, feel the evaporating cold, and work my way to the side.

There is slack in the line and I know that a fall from here will rip her from her perch.  I throw my axe, there is a pocket of air, there is a POP, a block of ice between the eyes, another noise in my head.  I think of her, and fatigued muscles stiffen, lock in, become momentarily static as I swing away on one arm and one leg, stare at the rope lazily running over the top of the fall, and the world slowly closes in around it, until it is gone.

There is a tickle on my face, metallic taste, I have held on.  I swing back and I hear her from over the fall.  I let her know I will make it to her and work again.  In the determined struggle crimson runs on my white shirt, reddening bare arms strain, new muscle bulges wrapped in gorging veins.  I pull myself over the top and we are both safe.  She stands there in front of me in the bare white so I stand with my back to the edge and search her sparkling eyes.  The world is frozen, the day shines between us, and she looks at me the way I always want her too.  The way I wish I could maintain.  But for now we stand and we stare in the glistening white.