Writing from the Columbia River Basin

A Marriage Like Climbing

A Marriage Like Climbing

A slightly cheesy yet expected drawn out climbing metaphor, written for Claire and Perry's September 3rd wedding ceremony.

We find our life partner like we find the sport of climbing.

For most, a love of climbing starts with an introduction in a climbing gym. It’s a relatively safe and non-committal introduction to the sport. There’s a rubber floor, a stolen glance, fixed ropes, a smile, a business card passed over a checkout desk, plastic holds. It’s a flirtation and a passing thought.

Maybe I’ll go climbing today. Maybe she’ll call.

And then climbing does call and so does she. And you realize that you don’t just have to climb the same tired, plastic indoor routes. You can go outside and suddenly you’re at a limestone crag outside of town and falling in love is a sport climb. Still bolted, a well traveled and well documented route. Chains at the top, if all goes well. But there’s those first moments to the first bolt, unprotected, your calf shaking - that moment when you say, “I love you” first, wondering if she’ll reply. Suddenly there’s time between safety, run out on the sharp end of a rope when you realize your life is literally in her hands, your heart too.

And many of us rest there, in love, on bolted sport climbs. There’s just enough thrill to go home at the end of the day feeling accomplished.

But the partners that trust their bravery and are brave enough to trust each other, they find the multipitch climb with no bolts. And that’s what we’re doing here today, that’s what a marriage is. It's trad climbing. It’s brave as shit. Because at this point, you’ve been climbing long enough to see it go wrong. You read the monthly incident reports, you’ve lost friends, you’ve bruised and battered your own body. But you don’t stop climbing because climbing is like breathing and so is love.

I hope, Claire and Perry, that you’ll think of your love as a 70m rope. I hope you’ll think of your marriage as your harnesses that you figure eight that love into. And I hope you’ll think of all of us sitting here today as your protection. We're your cams, your pitons, your slings, your locking carabiners. We all serve a different purpose, some more useful than others - don’t tell us who is the #6 is.

There will be times, alone on that wall, with bloodied hands and chalk in your eyes when you don’t want to climb anymore, when you’re frustrated and burnt out and broken down. It’s okay to rest on us. It’s okay to use us to rappel back down to each other and try again. Failure is all relative, 300 feet off the ground.

When one of you slips from the wall, you know the other will use the weight of their body to make the catch soft.

When climbing, our smart, compassionate human brains are our biggest asset and our biggest downfall. Maybe marriage is similar. Be smart but don’t overthink it. Don’t forget to feel the joy of your finger muscles flexing into crimps. Look at the way the valley below you rolls from pine tree to river. Laugh. Stand at the top of Solar Slabs with a ring in your hand, looking at and loving this woman who is your best friend and your best climbing partner and the love of your life and don’t care that the sun is setting and you’ve got a brush-y, juniper filled rappel ahead.

You two have already toed, with your rubber shoes, the fine lines between bravery and trust. Because you trust each other, you can be brave. Because you are brave, climb into overhangs and over bulging granite, out into this badass, chaotic, and beautiful marriage and life.

Thank you.

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