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The Warmth - by Taylor Reed, Fall EEIP Intern 2016

Posted by lindsaybarden | Oct 06, 2016

In certain circles, the name Dean Potter carries with it the weight of a legend. The lanky rock climber was known for his lightning-fast ascents, iconic high line feats and frequent BASE jumps. He passed away last year in an accident during one of such excursions. James Lucas, a close friend of his, recalled an encounter Dean had with a young local - 

"You've done all this rad stuff. You've speed soloed, high lined, climbed hard, BASE jumped. How do you do it?" a Yosemite kid once asked Dean.

"Well you know that feeling you get when you're lying in your sleeping bag and it's warm and cozy and outside is cold and dark, but you've really got to pee?"

"Yeah! Yeah!" The kid said.

"Well," Dean said, "I just get up and go."*


I hear the rain drizzling slowly outside my window. I know I need to wake, but I don't much feel like doing so. "Do I want to do this?", I question. I turn this thought over and over in my mind as I force my feet out and onto the carpet. It continues on as I brush my teeth. It continues until the heat in my coffee mug has dissipated- through my fingers, into the elements and is then gone.

I knew of Dean from time spent living in Yosemite National Park. I was never much of a climber, but friends were and sightings of Dean made fine table-talk. Seasonal work in a picturesque setting made for good days. I remember the sensation of waking in the morning and feeling the aliveness of knowing that you're doing just what you want to be doing, not what you have to do to get there, and you are where you want to be, rather than the place that you think can move you towards where you want to be.

After experiencing and knowing that well, it's easy to question place and responsibility, especially that which is taken on and chosen voluntarily. Maybe I'm sometimes anxious. Maybe I often sense monotony. Maybe I don't feel much. Whatever the case, it's alright. I may not know or understand why its alright, but I can keep walking. It may, in fact, be good not to turn from these things even if I don't know why.

Our first day of the internship has finished. The whirlwind of lessons, hiking, dip-nets, laughter, confusion and all slows, and I see a line of first graders waiting for their bus. One of them, who had been in my group, looks a little somber. I step over towards her, kneel down and ask how she is.

"Good," she quietly replies.

"Good," I respond, giving it a small smile. She returns it.

I glance over at the rest of the kids, about to get up, and she steps forward and wraps her arms around me.

It was in that small moment I felt gladness I had simply gotten up that morning and done it.


[Note: It isn't my purpose or goal here at Au Sable's internship to get hugs from kids. The nature of the program is much deeper than that, as it's geared towards supporting Au Sable's mission, which is to "inspire and educate people to serve, protect, and restore God's earth." The point of this anecdote was to relay an instance of feeling. Without the hug, my intention for the day would still have been somewhat fulfilled. It's often thought, however, that service and doing things we may not feel like doing means sacrificing gladness or joy, in order to continue chipping away at the block of what can and should be bettered in this world. This experience was a reminder for me that those joys can unexpectedly meet us and offer a bit more of the semblance of sense, even in times we might like to be doing other things.  Although these joys aren't promised or guaranteed, the very nature of struggle lends them a certain unique depth.]