By Rob Shaul
In my 30s the mountains were my opponent.
Every hike a race; every climb, a competition.
I’d congratulate myself back at the trailhead on my ability to crush a peak, hammer a 20-mile loop and dominate a boulder field. Fitness, nutrition, gear and skill were my weapons and every outing I gave the mountains a beating.
My lack of respect was unforgivable. My arrogance, immature.
A trip went bad. Weather turned, I missed the route and got lost, turned around too late, endangering my partners, and limped back to the truck, wet, cold, hungry and scared.
I was defensive initially on reflection – full of excuses and blame. Somehow, humility scratched through, slapped me hard, and cleared up the bullshit.
I was no mountain conquerer. I was an ignorant, insignificant insect who’d been extremely lucky.
And it was never a “competition.” The mountain always wins.
I’m reminded of this now as COVID-19 has it’s way with us.
Initially we were going to keep it out by shutting the borders, then smash it flat with lockdowns and keep it down with social distancing. Then the summer heat was going to arrive and cook it away, and now, all that having failed, we’re sure biology will kill it forever with a genetically-engineered totally foolproof vaccine …. by year’s end!
At each step individually and collectively we’ve made excuses, cast blame and talked bluster as the virus has kicked our butts.
Turns out it’s pretty hard to beat nature. Nature always wins.
While the deaths from COVID are known and tragic, the social and economic damage has been somewhat suppressed by government-funded direct payments, enhanced unemployment benefits and business loans. I know this is artificial, and despite the booming stock and housing markets, and record new vehicle sales, things have changed. I feel it.
Many small service businesses are hanging on by a thread. Several have already thrown in the towel. Major airlines are burning millions each day, and tens of thousands of layoffs are looming October 1. Small, locally owned restaurants and retail stores are threatened with extinction. Office real estate has been fundamentally disrupted, and gym-based, group training may never recover. Millions of kids have lost several months of school learning, with closures extending into the Fall.
We’re still in the thick of it.
Nature doesn’t care.
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