i just spent a quarter of an hour looking up the origins of callow and callous. callow is from the old english term calu meaning bald and is a cognate with the dutch “kaal” and german “kahl”. callow is synonymous with words like untried, green, raw. callous on the other hand is slightly more recent, dating back to late middle english. callous is synonymous with hard, inured. isn’t it funny how words that look so similar can be so different? i was looking up a good punny title for a post on my latest educational kick (top roping & bouldering) and then i promptly fell right into an etymology rabbit hole. it’s pretty neat down there, the origin of words and how meaning evolves. words are like little anthropomorphic tracks through time. o’s and u’s traipsing around the forest of language appearing and disappearing while hopping across the pond.
getting back to the photo up top. that’s my left hand and my swanky rock climbing shoes. well, they’re not actually that swanky and while you can hardly see the callouses developing beneath each knuckle, i can definitely feel the callouses forming on my hands. they make me feel super tough. almost as tough as when i listen to rap music which is infrequently. it’s true, my street cred is probably only slightly more authentic than bieber’s (i lived in bushwick when it wasn’t cool!).
rock climbing has been one of the most interesting sports of all the ones i’ve tried. it’s also one of the most humbling. turns out if you decide to head to the gym near the open on a weekend, you run into the kiddie crowd. the average age of the early morning climbers must be 8 or so. and geesh, these kids are fearless. they’re amazing.
this morning while doing a bit of bouldering, i got to watch an 8 year old kick my ass as he scampered up a climb his first try that had stymied me my last 3 attempts. if he can do it, surely i can do it. although i was able to complete the climb that was my most recent nemesis, it definitely wore me out the rest of the time. i can’t explain it and hopefully the feeling will go away with time, but i actually am nervous every single time i attempt to climb something. it’s not the going up that troubles me, it’s the how will i get down?
being so petite, i’ve realized that in order to accomplish some of the climbs that longer-limbed folks easily fell requires a lot of trust in my own body and instincts. it also requires a lot of faith in my abilities to bend, leap, and let go. letting go. that, my friend, scares the crap out of me. some days, i am more brave than others. i’m often pretty cowardly but i am getting more and more comfortable with jumps. the worst moments are when i lose faith both in my ability to go up or jump down and waste precious energy clinging to the wall. i can literally feel my stomach turning in those crucial seconds while i make the decision between a risking a slip during a descent as my strength runs out or cutting my losses jumping off and just hoping i land smart.
luckily so far, knock on wood, i’ve managed to stick all my landings but i don’t imagine that streak will continue. it’s probably only a matter of time until i land on my ass or something worse. in snowboarding they teach you that breaking a fall with your hands is the worst (well, probably not worse than with your face or spine…) but it’s poor form. by breaking falls with your hands, you put your wrists in danger. they’re pretty fragile bones and they’re not meant to absorb a lot of impact. i’m guessing that carries over to all instances of falling.
the best part of rock climbing so far has to be the camaraderie and it’s appeal across race and age. although climbs are done individually, folks are incredibly supportive and helpful and it’s so cool to watch it done well. it’s like witnessing a dance of strength and balance on a wall instead of a stage. graceful, poised.
6 weeks ago climbing had never crossed my mind and now i can’t get enough. climbing? climb on!