Hanging on by the nails

Hanging on by the nails - student project

Holy mother of god, look at that endless water, the atlantic. Mama nature has done it again.  Such peace to be found just beyond this rounded grassy mound and the next. I can keep my focus on the expanse confidently, having faith in the sheeps’ hooves shaping the undulating spirited walk under my feet, however the search for clover in between grass differs from searching for sisterhood in an unconfident, belittled, mistrusting mental dictatorship.  We do not stick side by side, we are unaware of our treks diverging. I go low to find a spot to be still with the sea and she likely knows she won’t get any view of the ocean in that direction that doesn’t have me egotistically using the view as a soul cleanse, like the solid brittle statue of Rio de janeiro. I’m right up my own hole, amn’t I?

Luckily, a perfectionist somewhere has orchestrated our day, we almost don’t know how to react to the blissful scent of earth, with all it’s bird and sheep additives, rising from the slowly sun warmed ground, the southerly wind blowing from 8 o'clock to the sea if the horizon were the turn of clocks, 10 til 2.  It blows a chill against our ears, noses and nails but two young irish progressives will never ruin themselves a day, auras providing, expected the worst, we’re kitted out. Herself is suited up in patagonia and northface and a second hand butty ski jacket does the job for me. Can we comprehend the lack of misfortune in our bleakly constructed personas, should this be more difficult? 

My breath matches the water and the winds and find myself lost in time. My direction facing towards the next gentle corner around a hill, eta two or twenty minutes, as when there is no coffee shop to mark the spot, I lose grasp of the need to be anywhere by a certain time especially when there’s nothing I wouldn’t defer for those steps and there’s no person that could call to hurry me, who’s yells, could reach my ears, stronger than the high pitch wind.  The waves are all to be heard under the wind like a washing machine behind a well sealed door.

As I turn into the wind, I taste, for a brief instant, salty mussels, likely coming from where the birds seem to dive and soar from a deep crevice in the land some 100 to 1000 metres ahead. Fortunately, my attention is on a closer break in the land, led by my precedent guides, up to the lip of the cliff and the laundry door is flung open. My ears re-calibrate.  I take the last few feet on hands and knees in case the fan, currently blowing, were to be turned off and my forward propulsion to be found unmatched. Unbeknownst to myself, I’m gripping the ground, a lizard on the ground, soaking up every ounce of sturdy mana and to keep my ass on this side of gravity.  

“What do you think?”

“Awh, so beautiful. I feel a bit woozy looking down”

“So you don’t want to go down?”

I chuckled, a salute for recognising my nerves but as I looked up to where she positioned herself, looking down at me, or should I say towards me and gesturing to the opening of the earth wound. Ah crap. Challenge is my one incomprehensible frenemy, I can never turn away and I don’t know why that is.

I took a look and well it looked shite. The first twenty percent comprised of shingles and hard rock, the rest of the route obscured but considering it would have been formed by wind, water and billy the goat, I’d only imagine the same again or worse further down.  

“Right”, she registered.

Oh I’d been talking out loud.. “But we can take a look and see how far we get, is what I meant to say”

“Right” she said. 

Hard to read that one. Whether her suggestion was honest, her opinion that it was manageable and her confidence real but having known her so long as I did,  or having grown up in the same catholic, oppressive, competitive, “hard to prove oneself” upbringing, was she was needlessly challenging me, was she being poisoned by the new virtue of leading life by curiosity or did she want to share that with me?  Unfortunately it’s difficult to be sure. Our shared desires converge comfortably in a challenging competitive core space.

“Let’s not think about it too much til we get there” she smiled.

I’ve done amazing things in my earlier twenties led by naive unawareness, but it’s hard to ignore all lessons to get that far again. The same with relationships, I’ve learned to make my decisions independently, strengthening my choice and… oh, off we go. And I’m gather myself from the warm snug of the soil and the safe wind zone 30cm above ground.

Right-o all stations turned down, “Let’s go”

We start off down the cliff. The soil creep covered the first 15 metres with grass growing over solid boulders like a chunky icecream. A convincing way to get into the flow, collect my thoughts. Oh I’m so glad she challenged me, I have felt so held back by my own mental constraints these past few years, I’m yearning for old friendships that pushes me outside the limits of my own mind.  Regularly I would love to go rock-climbing with ropes, pins, technique and a visible learning arc. I’m obsessed with the learning arc.

I tighten up my bag and shoes to hop confidently from lump to lump. We reach the exposed larger rocks and the curving paths mean I can see the sea where we’ll celebrate but not the next ten moves.  Laughably contradictory to my usual motivational monologue for conceptual adventures, we can’t see what’s beyond us in the dark but right in front of my foot is one square white stone. But in the still air of the chasm, one square white stone turns into ten rounded stones and thus into a fluctuant sea of shingle.  I can’t help but notice that the sheep droppings stayed where the shadows could talk. The best wild climbers in the area are no idiots, not drunk with unfounded competition.

Man, why did I let her convince me, what does she know, her pants are brand new!

She moves confidently, so much so, I do not want to break her stride, as we slowly navigate down one huge rock, crumbling my main rule of never climbing down anything if you can’t see how to get back out.  At this stage I was experiencing full dissociation from my thoughts. One of my underlying objectives of this holiday was to listen more, and I was currently leaving all decision making to her.

Jesus, I lost faith in her without missing a beat. Would I have done that if she was a guy with no experience? Well what’s my experience? Exactly this, running through forests, climbing where I shouldn’t and pushing myself. Why do I view her as having no experience?  Although she is our baby woman, like a butterfly that spent just a little too long in the chrysalis, whose wingbeat is jerky but intuitive.

I abandon my bag to squish through a crevice, I don’t have a working phone anyway as I am only home for a short time, an interlude of my life as a binary abroad and my bag is packed for a picnic not parkour.

We descend easily after this rock, we ramble along independent routes laughing with adrenaline and succeed in our merry way to the sea. An incredulous welcome like the palm of a giant. We arrive to our intermission some time around eleven am, when the sun is traversing the line of the chasm, we reach Eden.

A naked swim in reliable waters. This water is likely untouched by any others in a long time, if not due to it requiring balls, surely it’s remoteness would keep this truth. The icy blast awakens the body and as the female body delights me like a hot cup of tea, I indulge in lying on the hot rocks with my friend, feeling fulfilled and free, only distantly aware of the shaded scene above our heads. We continue the week long dialogue we’ve engaged with since the start of our trip. We are each other’s silence. I think not of her body but of my new interest in all female forms.

We pull our socks on over damp skin, in silence and mental solitude.  We climb.

We reach the god fore-saken, shitebag of a rock.  Well there’s no getting up there. Upon abandoning that route, we’re left  only a traverse of the slope across crunching ground, which I despise on a forty degree incline. Time stands still.  My food and water feel long ago and I feel panicked because I am a fainter. I have no phone and with a quick visual scan of my friend’s pockets, I become acutely aware that my friend doesn’t either.  In short, every reason why I would slip to my death, suddenly becomes apparent. I feel sick with my root chakra feeling like it was going to fall out my ass.  

Trust her Kamila, trust her. Don’t trust yourself, sure your mind is mush with over-analysis. Your thoughts are useless now that you’ve hurdled right over your usual approach. Your trust has no consistency and we’re aware of that. But she’s not. If you put faith in her, she will feel empowered and get us both out of this situation. I hear a murmur of “every man for himself” but my friend’s voice was not recognisable.

I can not recall knowing her at her limits before other than spats with friends, where we agree to disagree.  On the cliff-face, we discuss options, reassurance and positivity. Hold up. Overthinking is almost killing me. 

My friend’s route had led her to just above my current challenge where although holding a squat still wasn’t an all day occasion, she held her place comfortably.  My route had brought me on the other side of a giant boulder in the chasm and to unite with my friend, I would need to pass in front, on a two metre stretch of an inch thick ridge, covered in shingle, squashed above and below, by a forty-five degree slope, again covered in shingle. I fucking hate shingle.

“... can we not talk about where we are for a few minutes?... I know this is going to be unusual… but… can you, maybe, tell me about the woman in work again?... has she rang you since?... “

There was a brief silence. I could not see her around the boulder but her breath swooped around and met me. “....Well she actually came in the next day because...”  and I could see the challenge more clearly, with my mind peering in a window on George’s street. Each step jittered but didn’t fail. My mind is peering in a window on George's street. 

And we rise, we rejoin, thank fuck and continue until we get to a place we can actually stop, out of this surreal dreamy hellhole. When the sky became clear, it smothered me like I was driven towards the blue depth and then darkness.  My forehead to the grass. I did not care for any excrements and unashamedly hugged the ground I so desperately prayed for, and it hugged me back. Time stopped. My fingers indented the soil.

Tough as nails.

We’re feminists and we’re from farming backgrounds. 


Let’s not talk about this for a while. 



Would you do it again? 

I have a tenuous relationship with reality. There’s too much to be learned in discomfort to ignore.  In between the rocks, there is not knowledge, there is the knowledge of feeling.