I landed the exact job I was looking for this season, as a farm hand at a market garden outside of Gothenburg, growing veggies in a field. For three months by now, I’ve been working with Sasha at Earthculture Farm. I only do three days a week, but its becoming apparent that my body – mainly my left knee which has had reconstructive surgery – is taking a hit. So much of the work is done either kneeling, squatting, leaning over or crawling as I’m weeding, pruning, thinning, transplanting…
The percentage of time I’m spending in these bent positions, which are very stressful for my knee, is a lot higher compared to for example being a gardener at the Botanical garden working mainly in the woodland areas.
I went to do a test round with my physiotherapist about a month ago. She though the knee was doing fine although I could benefit from beefing up my muscles a bit. She also reminded me to try and avoid the rotational stress that comes from working a lot in low positions. I admit that I haven’t been heeding that advice. When there’s work to be done, I do it.
It feels strange that I’m not coping just fine as a veggie farmer after spending so many days up in high mountains, climbing and hiking, and mostly doing well. I guess I was overly optimistic that once the knee was functioning again I’d be able to do whatever I want. But climbing and dirt farming aren’t the same things. I come home after work every other day feeling stiff or strained, my knee might be a bit puffed up or I can’t bend it fully. That sucks so hard!
I’m not sure how to proceed with this situation. Is it possible that I just need to do more rehab/rehab? Should I be looking into a more diversified type of farming? Should I be looking for a less physical job?
It rains in our alpine paradise. Where yesterday the sky was blue and the evening had a golden glow, a light drizzle is now hanging in the air. We hide inside and try to make smart plans, skimming info from all other climbers we can find, turning the pages of the guide book back and forth. This route maybe, or this?
We’re abruptly figuring out just how many factors we must take into account when planning what granite spire to (try to) climb. In Patagonia the weather that matters is not just if it’s sunny or rainy. It’s winds and temperatures and days of sun vs days of rain. It’s the aspect of the rockface, the depth of the cracks, the amount of ice and snow, the temperature of the rock, the humidity of the air. Is the approach over a glacier or in skree? Can you rappel the route or will you be going down an unknown face? Will your gear freeze up? Can you back of anywhere should the weather turn bad? Do you walk in and set up camp closer to the spires, or is it more efficient to do a monster day from town all the way up a mountain and back down again in one push?
From El Chaltén we can se the spires of Fitz Roy and friends soaring high, a dreamy skyline of grey, brown and white. That is, if it’s not raining. And most of the time Fitz Roy is clad in clouds anyway, being a tower that creates its own weather system. It’s original name, Chaltén, means ”the humid mountain”. (It wasn’t until 1899 that someone proved the mountain wasn’t just a volcano, spewing out smoke).
Tim and I have no intention of trying to climb this famous mountain. We don’t have the skills not the equipment or the time to do it. Plus, when I look at the full Fitz Roy range and my eyes come to rest on Poincenot I know that’s the one. That’s the most beautiful of them all. I wanna be an ice princess, climbing and hacking my way up that spire! It’s so clean, it’s lines so neat. Another year, perhaps. One can never have to many dreams…
To achieve a dream it’s a good idea to go about it all in small steps. I know that I need to keep on practicing my climbing skills on both rock and ice to be able to competently and safely make my way up those beautiful high walls. This time around we will therefor first try our luck on smaller peaks like Guillaumet, De L’s and Medialuna. Some 500 meters of climbing in proper icy alpine conditions is enough for now. I’ll save my first vertical kilometer for later. The approaches alone will be strenuous, with tens of kilometers of walking up sandy trails to thalus slopes and over glaciers, 8 hours or more one way.
It all sounds like a very fun day or two in the mountains, non?
Ah. The alpine paradise. Patagonia. The Chaltén massif, home of Cereo Fitz Roy, Cerro Torres and other beauties. It’s a true pleasure being here in this real world Narnia. You see, it’s not just the mountains which are special, it’s the whole scenery with gnarly old southern beech wood trees, a gazillion of yellow flowers on spiky bushes, a blue green glacial river snaking the bottom of the U-valley below us and condors soaring above our heads. It’s a drop dead beautiful place. If we get to climb, that’s great. If not, we’ll happily enjoy the natural magic.
We all want and need things in life. The ”wants” can differ in all directions, wanting a job or a phone, wanting a girlfriend or a new life. Emotional needs like feeling special and wanted intermingle with physical needs such as food and shelter.
Having had the opportunity throughout life to figure out some of my own wants and needs, I tend to also go meta level to try to see the patterns of these wishes so that I can make them happen more easily and often.
A huge need for me is to live my life in an adventurous way. Pushing my own limits is a constant source of energy, and the opposite – not pushing – is draining. That’s why I freedive. That’s why I climb. That’s why I surf, go long distance cycling, go paragliding, hike for weeks and do all kinds of personal athletic challenges. It’s also why I study, study and study some more – my brain is always in need of new facts, new input. That’s why I started a company and put myself in front of hundreds of students and listeners as an educator.
But, that last bit of starting a company is – in retrospect – also the point when things started getting a bit complicated a few years back. It turned out to be less of an adventure and more of an eroding experience. I turned out more stressed and less free. Sure, it gave me a huge chunk of experiences and new wisdom plus a weird, organically composed human network to tap into, but it also dragged me towards the center of the mass where I really don’t feel that I belong.
This, on the other hand, this is where I belong. In places in nature where most people would think they are about to die, because they’re out of air or just to tired to hold on.
I’m an edge person. I hate being stuck in the middle of something, be that a group of people or an area of science. The way I kindled my little company to life was very much in an edgy way, but in the end the entrepreneurial gravity started tugging at me, spinning me inwards. I was choking and leaking, unable to reset my navigation.
Here’s two important clues as to what happened:
I was working solo ==> Not feeding my brain enough, that is: To few deep work relations, to many shallow ones.
I was working odd hours ==> Not feeding my personal social adventurous life enough, but instead draining myself of energy.
So what do you do in that position? Keep on going, hoping that you’re soon over the hill and that on the other side you’ll be able to hire colleagues, get a work space and set a routine for your working hours so that you can also have some ”free” time again?
Nah. I did one of my meta level zoomed out analyses and figured it was better to go low key with the entrepreneurial stuff, get a job at an established workplace and start honing my skills and up my experience in the field where I have finally realized that I want to be (even though I have yet to discover on what step in the hierarchy I shall place myself).
That field could be called something like Gardening the Planet, in the most regenerative way possible. I am sure I will get there, and it will be together with others. Meanwhile, I will also hold a large space for adventure.
So here I am, about to start my second season at the Botanical Garden in Gothenburg. I actually feel like I own all my titles now, that I AM a gardener, an engineer, a permaculturist, and that even though I don’t have a paper stating that I’m an adventurer, that doesn’t matter because I’ve always been that. I’m still ranked as the best female freediver in Sweden of all times. I still biked all the way to Gibraltar to look over the strait at Africa while chatting with monkeys. I still moved to Argentina and became una andinista. Those experiences will never go away, and I will be forever grateful to myself for being so annoyingly stubborn that I keep on setting myself new, odd goals.
This summer, we will be swimming for 10 days in a fjord somewhere in Norway, our equipment stuffed on SUP-boards. I am so looking forward to this little adventure and the gardening season, before the larger 15-months adventure goes boom in 2017.
Sometimes I think that climbing and freediving are just two sides of the same coin, and that that’s why I’m so drawn to them. Both activities include close interaction with the elements (e.g. rock or water), a strong mental focus, physical strength, the need to perform and relax at the same time, mostly small scale equipment, an individual performance coupled with the need for a team, and the feeling of being free and one with nature.
But then, when I start to compare how these two activities makes me feel, in my mind and in my body, the differences are abundant.
Rock climbing, to me, is about the flow and repetition of a differentiated set of small details and small moves. Your hip turning ever so slightly towards the rock face, allowing you to reach that next crimper, then your momentum can be shifted over to your left foot by adjusting your balance on that tiniest of holds, just a small rocking movement and you’re there… You tie into the rope and narrow your world down to what is of the essence of right now – the features of the rock face measured against your bodily and mental capacity. The most beautiful climbs are set in a mental state of flow. You know that you do not know what awaits you up there, and you relish that feeling and succumb to it. Freedom is being fearless.
Freediving is an entirely different set of repetitive movements. They’re larger, more simplified. You are a wave. Punto y final. The pattern of freediving is less complex when it comes to what muscles you use and how you move your body, and so it calls for less mental activity. While practicing freediving, you get to know your own breath before and after a dive, and you familiarize yourself with its impact on your state of being. You get to know your own inner landscape, because during a breath-hold, that’s all there is to see. The only way to escape from meeting yourself is to surface again, and why would you want to do that? A freediver longs for the depth, for the intimacy it provides. Freediving is meditation and thoughtless contemplation. With this self awareness, you walk through everyday life a stronger person. It’s a simple and beautiful gift.
Freediving calms your mind, rock climbing activates it. They both lead to a state of flow, but for different reasons. I cherish them both.
The trick is to understand how to do both without constantly loosing your essential climbing calluses from swimming in the ocean for too long 😉