Field Notes: Pathologically outdoors, but going out anyway
CLIFF GRASSMICK
Field Notes: Pathologically outdoors, but going out anyway

This weekend, we were a junk show.

One of my favorite flicks from the Real Rock Film Tour last year is about a trainwreck of a journey Down Under: The rental van’s a jalopy, two of the climbers wrestle out an old grudge, and the group bickers and laughs their way through a bushwhack to some Tasmanian sea cliffs.

In one scene a local says of the group, “they’re a bit of a junk show.”

Sometimes being a junk show feels like my personal ethos.

This weekend started positively enough. Saturday the hub and I headed out to climb, but we somehow settled on a crag I’m not a fan of, a crag that I like to have a helmet for — for loose rock on the approach trail more than for the climbing.

I wish I were one of those eternally positive people, the ones who say, “Any day out doing (fill in the activity) is a good day!” I want to be that appreciative of every moment outdoors. I want to have that rosy of an outlook, to be that psyched always.

The truth? Sometimes, habitual tendency drives me outdoors more than psych: It is the weekend, thus I go out to climb.

Things started off well enough Saturday. Sure, I sneezed my head off due to spring allergies; my rope has snot on it now. We watched another climber nearly ride a big loose rock down the hill.

After the warm up, we eyed a climb I remembered disliking. But it was an open line at a crowded crag. Maybe I could cultivate some positivity this time and like it, I thought.

Nope: I had a repeat — an awkward, disgruntled performance. I bailed, and as I untied, the hairiest dog I have ever seen walked up to our rope and backpacks. I thought he was cute, until he gave himself a good long shake, emitting a great, visible cloud of dust and innumerable allergens.

In addition to a few spring blooms, I’m allergic to dog dander. And this fluffy guy was the canine version of Pigpen.

Eternal positivity could suck it.

We left. I sneezed all the way to the liquor store, where we grabbed a bomber of Salvation Ale and hoped for just that, plus positivity, the next day.

Sunday morning we donned our ski pants and jackets for the last day of the season at Eldora. We laughed and lightly said, let’s not be a junk show today.

In Eldora’s parking lot, I realized I was missing something.

I forgot my gloves. It was in the 20s, and the wind was gusting to who knows what.

Junk show.

The hub reached for the car keys. But I realized that on the last day of the season, I could probably buy gloves cheap. And I felt obligated: Last day!

It is the weekend, thus I go out to ski.

I bought discounted gloves, then we winced against the wind and skittered over hard snow onto the lift. I pulled my coat over my nose and mumbled, “Is this fun?”

“No,” he said with a smile.

“Is it stupid that we’re out here?”

“Yes.”

I was grateful he could call a spade a spade.

Earlier this week I interviewed local writer Jim McVey, and he mentioned that he’s interested in the ritual in these things we do outside and why we do them.

I often wonder this myself — especially after a weekend of junk-show-ness and no psych. I fear that “ritual” in this case is just a nice way of saying that we went out because it’s what we’re accustomed to doing, even if there’s not much joy in it. And isn’t there something pathological about that?

It is the weekend, thus I go out…even if I should be on the couch watching the Reel Rock Film Tour on DVD.

Then again, maybe for those of us who aren’t eternally positive, the beauty isn’t always instant or obvious. Like how I’m laughing at our weekend now. Or how I get joy out of climbing with my friend Tara, who complains often but does it with such aplomb that it makes me roll. Or Sherry, who can always muster a smile for a friend but truthfully, climbs best when she’s mad.

Or Adam, who is full of faux-positive aphorisms like, “You either have a good day or a good story.”