I had a wonderful, revelatory day today.
I just got home from Jangsudae, the first place I ever climbed outside, about an hour north of here. The climbing was great today, did some of the most difficult lead-climbing I've done which was awesome and makes me feel accomplished. Also climbed some familiar routes with greater amounts of ease than I imagined two months of experience could give me. That was great. The climbing, however, was only a small part of why I had an incredible day. We decided to take the scooters (henceforth referred to using the verb: to scoot) up to the crag. The past times, we've either been driven by a local friend, or taken the bus. Seeing the scenery through the window, we conceived the idea a while ago of scooting to Jangsudae, expecting that it would take a while, but that there must be the way. Last night I found a mapquest-style website for Gangwondo, and saw that the route was actually pretty straightforward. So early this morning, Robert strapped a milk crate to the back of my scooter, for extra carrying capacity, and armed with kim-bap from family mart, pears and ham (gifts from the boss for Chuseok), coffee, and a bleary eyed sense of optimism, we took off from Sokcho. The road there was unbelievable. After taking the number 7 highway down the coast, dodging the usual insane korean drivers, we came to number 44, which took us into the mountains. Once 44 enters the mountains, it's a winding maze of switchbacks, ups and downs, and blind corners made slightly safer by the presence of the ever-ubiquitous fish-eye mirrors to see what's coming around the corner. The whole route is surrounded by a dominating, gasp-inspiring mix of mountains, rivers, boulders, and trees. It was one of the most beautiful drives I have ever seen, and as my parents would proudly tell you, during trips to the Rockies as a child, I saw a few that were pretty incredible. We made good time to Jangsudae, about 1 1/2 hours. There's a sense of joy and danger riding a two-wheeled vehicle that can do 125 km/h. Not that I was going anywhere near that fast in the mountains. In fact, at a couple of points I discovered that if my scooter isn't at least at the top of first gear by the time it hits an incline, it won't accelerate going uphill. Luckily, the route is so inconsistent in its inclines and declines, I was never put-putting along at 30 for more than a couple minutes. We were met in Jangsudae by a couple we met climbing yesterday in Seorak-san, Mark and Jenny. They're damn cool people, very relaxed and they set up a slack-line (tightrope) on the ground, which I took a few comical stabs at. Grace even joined us later in the afternoon, reading and talking with Lisa on the grass. After climbing was finished, with the sun an hour from setting and us not wanting to risk the mountain roads in the dark, we headed back. The ride back was every bit as beautiful as the way there. Much more downhill coming back, the switchbacks and tight turns were a blast as we slowed down for them and sped up during the straightaways. The mountain air was cold now, and a mist moved over everything, shrouding the world twenty feet higher than us and above in a shifting mystery. Incredible. After getting back to Sokcho, when Robert and I got off the scooters, we were giddy with the satisfaction of a new and wicked adventure. Lisa laughed at us, but she definitely made multiple arm-waving, grinning gestures of freedom on the ride home. I had a shower, and now we're planning a late dinner with Mark and Jenny.
What was so incredible about the day, besides spending great time with people that I have come to love, was that for the first time in a very very long time, I had this overwhelming sense that absolutely nothing is missing in my life. I've been a mess lately, trying to improve upon myself and failing, irritated with myself and my job and generally taking a lot of things for granted. I've been lonely. A friend of mine wrote to me recently that loneliness is everywhere, but wants you to think somewhere else, it isn't. She also said that loneliness is wanting, and wanting can be replaced by joy. I felt that today. I don't feel lonely. I miss people, I have catches in my throat at the thought of seeing some people I miss, but I feel pretty complete in my incompleteness. I also had one of the most interesting contradictory feelings I've ever had today. Hanging out with these two couples, these people that have become as big a part of each other's lives as themselves, I thought of how great it would be to have that kind of partnership again. This feeling was accompanied by a real sense of independence and a sense that I don't "need" someone, I just want someone. And that when it's "meant to happen" it will, and that I'm actually okay until then, and can be happy as a clam without. I seem to remember a similar feeling just before I got together with the former most important woman in my life, so who knows what the future holds. All in all, damn good time and place to be alive. Happy Chuseok.