Time or money: which should one to strive to posses?


Climbers in their natural habitat. Photo: Matthew Sapiecha.

     Finding a balance between having money and having time may be one of the more important problems of this generation. Having money is equated with happiness, though the two are separate. It surely gives a sense of security, having a stockpile of cash that can be turned into whatever wants or needs that a person has. With time you can make money, but you also have the liberty of choosing whatever it is that would fulfill you most at that moment, or at least what you think would fulfill you most. With many people time can spiral into meaninglessness and depression, as they are unsure, or unable to do activities or projects with that time that bring them happiness. Trading money for time is how many of us trade our lives to this/that corporation or industry, being compensated for our time with some cash incentive.

     Money may be the single most damaging thing to the environment. After all, look at the tribes in the middle of the Amazon which have no money, and are in balance with their surroundings. When money comes into the picture, it takes the shape of a ruptured oil pipeline polluting a river, or a bulldozer making way for a coffee plantation.

     The more money one makes, the more resources that person will tend to use. There will be excesses of waste wherever there is excesses of money. The United States is a good example of this. We will build ten thousand square feet houses for two people to live in. With enough money, maybe you can have three of these, in each of your favorite states. We will fly to Mexico, Florida, and the British Virgin Islands in a years time because we have enough money to pay the airlines for their fuel. Our dollar has more value than many other countries, so we import our tomatoes and peppers from poorer countries. Sometimes we pay immigrants low wages, as in California, to grow and harvest all of our fruits and vegetables. The value of the money is more to them in their own country, so they don’t mind. How many resources are being squandered because of excessive money. How many bathroom remodels. How many fridges, stoves, microwaves, and washing machines are just called outdated and put on the curb. How many people are installing TV’s, one on the wall of every room. How many bikes are idle, chains becoming stiff with red rust.

     Money isn’t all bad, but tends toward squandering resources (perhaps because we need stuff to give us momentary happiness). Some money is spent as salary for people mixing test tubes in labs and finding molecules that will halt cancer in its tracks, or renew the myelin sheath’s around nerves, or rebuild the cleft pallet of a newborn. It can be used to repair the ecological devastation caused by the mining and development that created it(money from ecological exploitation) in the first place. It can make computers available to every child, allowing for infinite learning potential. It can buy art supplies. Most importantly, it can buy time.

     So why are we chasing money so we can have that two month trip to Thailand? It is the people we surround ourselves with that truly bring happiness anyhow. Why not just use all that time to spend with them, playing cards or growing a garden, rather than striving to make more money. We could ride bikes or walk through the forest smelling flowers, but we sit behind a desk and dream of what it will be like when we get to the white sand covered beaches with palm trees everywhere. When we arrive, we are antsy, and the relationships with those that we brought along are still strained from the late nights at work and the stresses of being a cog in the production wheel.

     When we as a society want to focus again on relationship centered structure, having a balance with the natural world, I will want to participate. Until then, I will try to make just enough money to buy time to spend with the people that matter most to me. Here’s to you not buying anything the rest of the day, and instead having a nice conversation with someone you love. 

Jordan Moore and Myself on Astrodog, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, a few years back. Photo: Chris Kalous.


Striving for the simple life

     When life is broken down to the basics, it is simple. In the desert it is simplicity of life in it’s finest form: routines that melt the days into one another, scattered with hard climbs, good company, and dappled sunlight. Every night I fill the pot which holds water for my coffee before I crawl into my sleeping bag. Every morning I start the partially frozen pot on the burner before walking off for a morning constitutional. I then read in the early morning light until the sun and the cloud cover have worked together to make an all around pleasant temperature. Earlier in the week we made a run to get firewood, and filled the interior of the van to the brim. Today is the last rest day before I head back into ‘the world.’ The sun is making it through the high (cirrocumulus?) clouds that are accompanying this warm front, and at one point a thermometer on the table read seventy-two degree’s. Three games of chess, a guitar strum here and there, some spontaneous yoga postures, and two beers later the day is nearly complete. We lose sunlight on camp in about an hour, it being Three O’clock now. The migration of the sun in a more southern declination will continue for only seven more days before reaching it’s lowest point in the sky, the winter solstice. So much change is on the horizon for myself: primarily my destination twelve hours to the south in order to start fixing the boat. One thing that I can always count on is that the scenery change that accompanies the change in location will be refreshing. It also could not have come at a better time, since yesterday at the crag I stubbed my pinky toe removing the capping skin in a way that just barely missed the toenail. Tomorrow will be a test of my ability to heal as a lizard, supplemented by iodine tincture, triple antibiotic ointment, and climbing tape. I’ll have to hold off on scraping the bottom of the boat when I arrive, lest I get a staff infection. I am imagining shirtless maintenance and bike rides to the hardware store for parts. The full moon passed last night without any kind of extravagant celebration, aside from the restlessness that is inspired by a continual twilight that accompanies the moon throughout the night, exacerbated by the disseminating cloud cover. Also, I’ve got a novel that I am in peril of leaving unfinished, but can perhaps squeak into the schedule; Tom Robbins that sly sociopath. It seems to me at points that the novel may have been written “half asleep in frog pajamas.”

The van at firewood capacity. Ana, Birch, Muddy, and myself glowing proudly over our stacking job.


First morning back after my two day hiatus

     Today the contrast to the morning I arrived is unmistakeable; red rocks holding out in the desert sun longer than the snow. The desert has many natural forms, none of which are any less mystical or inspiring than the others. At the crag we see frequent ravens, and hear their caws among the cliffs. The rock wrens will visit from time to time during a belay to check out what everyone is up to, and a flock of Stellar’s Jay’s were leap frogging between juniper trees in a group of nearly a hundred (definitely over fifty). It also is fraught, in these cool temperatures, with crusher climbers pulling themselves around by their fingertips, another doubtfully natural phenomena that accompanies the aesthetic cracks(at least beautiful to a certain breed). Some of the aforementioned being recipients of climbing specific grants and gifts akin to the Mugs Stump award. Birch is among them: Alix, Mike, Dave, Arron and Kyra, John, Kelly, Brian and Bailin, Vitelli, Sean, Mayan Smith-Gobat, and Brette Harrington. Doubtlessly one of the most grand aspects of climbing is that you are able to climb at the cliff right along side the climbers you see in magazines doing record speed ascents and finding new routes in Alaska or Pakistan.

     Thoughts go out to Ana who rolled her car twice when leaving to make a phone call, luckily without injury. Such an event is life altering for somebody who lives out of their car to climb continually. I trust in the universe to clear a new path for her to trod this spring, perhaps taking that Tacoma she always wanted to Bishop.

More creekin’

     Climbing, climbing, and more climbing. It is a wonder that I made it back to yesterday’s court date at all, seeing that there is so much red crack to img_0022climb south of Moab. I ended up forfeiting to the state my right to travel freely since it was becoming quite troublesome to fight, having perpetual future court dates which interfere greatly with my pursuit of happiness, namely fixing my sailboat in south Texas. I registered my van, paid the state patrol, and filed a motion to change my plea to Nolo Contendere, which allows for conviction while still maintaining the distinction of not being guilty of the crime. I hope that the judge sees it fit to grant my motion, otherwise I may have to file further motions to avoid showing back up in Colorado at the end of February. In the motion I stated that “I was acting img_0045within my rights as a natural born person to travel freely on the public highways pursuant of Shapiro vs Thompson. The state converted my right into a privilege contrary to Murcock vs Pennsylvania 319 US 105. I acted in accordance with Shuttlesworth vs City of Birmingham 373 US 262 and ‘engaged in the right with impunity’, since charging a fee (registration fee) for a right is in violation of constitutional law.” I did register my van in hopes that some leniency would be rendered. As my monetary situation slips, I can neither afford nor have time to return in February.

Muddy sticking his tongue out at the man!

     Enough about being bullied by the state, oh the climbing! Thanksgiving was a feast, and all the wonderful souls that showed up hammered out a great dinner in the desert. We had stuffing, creamed green beans, mashed yams, turkey, pumpkin pie, and many other great small dishes that topped off our bellies. Thanksgiving celebrations in the creek have grown exponentially in recent years(to the dismay of local BLM authorities who tried to put a damper on things by enforcing two car limits at camp sites-so everybody can poop in the bush separately, because that makes ecological sense). Climbers from all over come together to be with their climbing family. Regular families are not radical enough; anti-establishment enough; anti-corporate enough; or so enlightened as to know all of the tragedies of modern society. This is the family that wants to fix things, but partially forgoes working within the system (maybe just me). Patrick recited to me one of his children’s books about water, encompassing the hydrologic cycle and the importance of conservation; certainly he will be a beacon for a change of heart of future generations.

Ice tool shenanigans

     Climbing shenanigans persisted: Ralph sauntered in his underwear, Kyle lied back through many hundreds of feet of climbing, Muddy was happily tired daily, and we all soaked up the sun in large clusters on the red rocks.  On one rest day ice climbing tools came out in order to traverse the downed cottonwood tree in camp.  We played hammerschlagen, and filled the campfire with friendly banter. There were many pounds of vegetables to eat, and all of us had wonderful BM’s img_0013for the duration. Sometime in the middle of the trip, the cold and snow came to meet us. Despite the flurries of large flakes, the remaining crew was not disheartened, and we stayed warm around campfires and cookstoves. Today is bitter cold, and cloudy, img_0052though the forecast calls for a warmer change. As such, I have no problem getting laundry done and preparing to go back. Yes, I must delay my return to the boat. Sometimes you enjoy the company of another so much that rational decision making goes out the window. A couple of extra bucks in gas and I’ll be off to spend another ten days climbing, high on the rocks. I feel that it may be exceptionally lonely heading down to Texas for a solitary christmas afterward: a stark contrast to all the love and laughter that I have had the joy of being immersed in over the last two weeks.


img_0076     It was nice to come back to news that the Army Corps of Engineers refused the easement for the Dakota access pipeline per president Obama, but over time the news was somewhat overshadowed by the prevalence of Donald Trumps tweets in the media, this time aggravating a nation, China. The Dakota access partners will likely drill anyhow, perhaps under president Trump, or will be forced to reroute the pipeline(is that a win?).  I found a segment on NPR glorifying live feed prison visits in lieu of hugs and other contact with family members particularly disturbing, especially given that the privatized prison systems are also charging up to a dollar a minute for at home live feed visits.  Can’t wait to be out of the loop again, and dependent only on the changing sky.  Gifts of tobacco to the gods bestow sunny days.

San Diego-Joshua Tree-Zion


    So much has transpired over one week. The full moon in San Diego was spent with all the yogi’s of La Jolla at an up and coming yoga studio/restaurant, Trilogy yoga. The drums played while the innermost workings of everybody’s body compelled them to throw their hands and feet about, a violin adding some color. I left at eleven o’clock, before the moon was at it’s zenith, for Blacks Beach. Down the long stairway of sand and two by sixes fortified with rebar there were many groups of three or five who were walking along the beach; partygoers. Right at the bottom of the stairs was a girl with a fire, and we chatted late into the evening about full moon intentions and our society which is struggling to leave behind the fossil fuel paradigm. I said my goodbyes to the ocean, and was drowsily on my way the next morning.

     Upon arrival at Joshua Tree National Park the friendliness and companionship that I have grown accustomed to rose quickly to the surface. img_0026So many travelers who find their way to Jtree. The first night there were still residual folk hanging around who had come for the full moon, one of which enjoyed playing with fire. She spun her fire staff for us all, igniting the night and enthralling everybody. The Skippeh’ and Birdy were the first two that I met, and played for me a few of their songs, Skippeh playing ukulele and Birdy playing the violin. The songs were well practiced and I was sorry that I didn’t have my recording equipment. The two hailed from Hawaii, and though Birdy climbed a lot in the past, she was really there to spark the interest of the Skippeh’ for the same. He was lanky and light, and will make an excellent climber after some practice with the shoes that he was gifted by his new friend Ray.


     If all the world had the same mentality as the climbers who frequent Joshua Tree, the worlds problems would be solved inside of a year. Loving kindness and a giving attitude prevailed, and even as conflicts arose, they were handled with compassionate communication, sometimes with the helpful intervention of third party mediators-thanks Mateo!

     The first day climbing in over a month I ended up bouldering, and perhaps inflaming a tendon in my knee heal hooking, then jumping on a low 5.11 and top roping a 5.12. 5.11 was my limit when I was climbing my strongest, and the specific climb was not so bad until reaching the thin crux, where I struggled and failed. My intention for the climb however was to try hard and take a whip, having another stronger climber clean up the mess. I do wish my head was a little more in it, as I sat and struggled too long on small holds, causing lactic acid to build up in my left forearm, rendering my hand useless. How important it is, the mental climbing game. The second day we climbed ‘walk on the wild side’, a 5.8 runout slab, which was bolted on lead by the first ascensionists.

     I simg_0056topped for a short stint in Zion National Park on my exit from Joshua Tree, but was unable to really explore due to restrictions on dogs. I did have a cool moment watching an American Dipper take a bath, as well as watching img_0037the moon set in the morning over the bright red rocks. There certainly is a lot to be explored out there.  I look forward to hiking angels landing or one of the other premier hikes sometime, while my pup gets a babysitter.



     The bonds created in the realm of traveling are somehow stronger than other parts of life. Perhaps because the need the ego feels to present itself is buried in the newness of the experience. I am grateful for all of the people that crossed my path this trip, and I look forward to seeing them again in another dirtbag daydream. As for now, it is time for me to get my affairs in order for a journey to Indian Creek to see all of the fabulous friends from the front range and elsewhere. Really living the dream right now!

     Love and light to Jeremy, Sarah, Frank, Ray, Elise, the Skippeh, Birdy, Mike, Jim, Morgan, Jordan, Disco, Andrew and all the others that I brushed shoulders with, but am not remembering.