The Pinch

Midnight approaches... More quickly than I'd prefer

The climb began as it has weekly for years

At dusk

In earlier years of my life

I had often made the ascent in daylight

Getting to know the rock surfaces

The cracks and toeholds and handholds

Like old friends I might meet for coffee

As dusk vanished, and blackness fell around me

The moon and stars shone on my friend's faces

They had smiled as each offered a hand up the chute

Bound for sacred ground where at daybreak

I can survey forested valleys And snowed peaks all around Up... Up

With back against one wall and feet braced below on the other

Upward I inch

The sky closed hours ago and a slow chilling rain

Is making small streams to bubble through the cracks

And flow over my shoulders and arms

How the wet rock would be glistening in moonlight and starlight

If only it weren't so dark

If my friends are smiling now I can't see them

But I still feel their hands reach out to hold mine

Feel fingers and thumbs gripping and pushing on the muscle and bone of my back

Knowing their closeness warms me

Here I'm not alone

Muscle and bone and fingers and toes

All have used up well over half their allowance of years Yet still enjoy plying themselves against the stone Suffer no aches or pains save those relished

In the weekly passage up the chute

Well past midnight after hours of straining against the help of my friends

After hundreds of feet of hellish vertical joy

I near the end of the chute

The party is almost over

As I ascend closer to the opening in the chute

As the rock walls draw closer together

I squeeze my body as I have so many times before into the pinch

My friends withdraw their hands and smiles

Now you're on your own

No room now to reach out or to be reached out to

Arms confined above my head

Legs and feet constrained to dangle below me

Only one manner of ascent at my disposal...

Torso forming itself ever more tightly between the rock walls

Shoulders and chest expanding or contracting to force my body through the pinch

As so many times before first arms then head then chest work free

Above the rim of the pinch

Sunrise! Life!

The End

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