Wait, where am I?!

I reached for the stick of salami and gulped it back while trying to keep one hand on the break end of the rope. The rope was attached to Colin, who, high above me was winding his way through the yellow bands of course granite. The wind was licking at my hair, tugging little strands out from under my helmet. To my left, I could see the Torres as swirls of lenticular clouds rolled around their summits. To my right, the vast, dry Pampas. I was cold, clenching and unclenching the frozen toes in my rock shoes to try and warm them. Despite the sun, the air was cool, and I just couldn't warm my toes...

Wait, my toes, my toes are cold...huh, uh...wait, where am I?!

As I roused from my slumber, I realised I wasn't in Patagonia at all, I wasn't anywhere near the mountains. I was in suburbia, Ontario, sleeping in my parents freezing cold basement. I could hear the whir of the oscillating floor heater, but it was missing the lower half of my body altogether, and my toes were frozen ice cubes. 

I haven't been home for more than 5 days in a row since 2006. My parents are getting older, the family dog has died, my brother's now married with 2 children, my best friend (since High School no less) and her husband just bought their first house, a picture of perfect suburban bliss; I was due for a good visit home! As a full-time climbing bum, the time was right for an extended return to my homeland!

When I called my mom to ask her if she'd mind me coming home for the month of December (after the month of November spent in California, and 3 months in Argentina beginning in January) I thought she was going to start crying right there, on the phone! I guess she was happy about my idea?

I rationalised this lengthy stay by telling myself it would provide a perfect training opportunity as I prepared for Patagonia. But, I still had to fight back the sinking feeling that I was going to be bored. By day 2 at home I had already signed myself up for a months membership to GoodLife Fitness, and the rock gym I learned to climb at, Of Rock and Chalk. And so I committed to a month of training and staying fit, as most Ontarians do in the winter -- INSIDE!

I think I may have used the phase, "I'm cold" more times in this month alone than all 8 years combined of living in British Columbia. For that matter, I think underground malls and walkways were surely invented by Ontarians? A typical day looks like; start car 15 minutes before needing to depart in order to pre-warm it, run from warm house to pre-warmed car, park car, run from warm car to warm <insert chosen destination here>. I don't think I've done so much as even go for a walk outside since being here!

Following the above series of steps, I embarked on a combined cardio/strength and climbing regimen. My typical training sessions would often involve an hour and a half of cardio/core at the workout gym, then on to the climbing gym for another 2 hours of climbing. I think I may have caused some double takes at my new workout gym, as this crazy woman with a death stare would march into the gym 6 days a week and proceed to annihilate herself -- I would be literally spraying sweat onto anyone within a 2 machine radius of me, and would often train cardio intervals hard enough that I'd be gasping for air at the end. To these unsuspecting gym goers hoping to enjoy their protein-powder-fueled gym workouts, I was ruining the zen with my maniacal training practises. But alas, training for the mountains involves some measure of pain and suffering. The flatlanders just don't get it?

After these crazed gym sessions it was on to the climbing gym to meet up with my Dad who kindly agreed to become my climbing partner for the month! A pretty radical Dad if I do say so myself. He effectively learned the sport in the span of a week, and now waltz's around the gym like he owns the place. I'm pretty proud of him. Dad would climb his 4 or 5 routes and then proceed to belay me on endless laps while we carried on conversations about crazy Uncle Kevin or trying to cope with mom always burning the frying pans. Haha!! I feel so privileged to be able to share the rope with my Father, something I hope to one day be able to do with my own children. Don't get any ideas mom, this is simply whimsy, I do not intend to have children any time soon!

But, as it turns out, partaking in 6 days a week of psychotic training sessions is just not the real reason returning home has been so soulful. It has been the time spent with the people I love that will be the most enduring.

Yes, there's listening to my parents bicker over paint colour, and the temperature in the house, but I've also gained a climbing partner in my Father, and many days were spent doing what the Hart ladies do best...shopping!

My younger brother, my crazy, wild, unruly little brother, is a Father and watching him hold his sleeping child in his arms made me so proud of him. He is a wonderful Father. The best!

My mother comes from a family of 7 and as you can imagine family gatherings have always been pure mayhem. The Matriarch of the family, my loving Grandmother, passed away 3 years ago, leaving a hole in the family. Since her death I have shied from spending too much time with the Ryder's hoping to avoid the feeling of loss I was certain to feel when we were all together. I recently took my second trip to my Grandparents house since my Grandma's death. It was hard to be there, everything about it is my Grandma. But, I began to embrace the special memories I have of growing up at that house in the company of my Grandparents and all those Aunts, Uncles, and cousins. It was a charmed life being raised in the company of this family, and spending time with them on this trip has only solidified these feelings.

There's, my dearest of cousins, Taryn, whose life trajectory has taken similar zigs and zags as mine. There's just something so wonderful about talking for hours with your own flesh and blood, someone who's been with you since the very beginning. Who understands the wild idiosyncrasies of your family and who struggles, just like I, to reconcile the life we were raised into, with the life we now lead.

Finally, there's my best friend since High School, Jackie. I always gawked at people who marry their High School sweethearts, but how can I do that when my own best friend has been there, since High School, through some of the most turbulent times of my life. Jackie, no longer the dork we were in High School, is now recognised as one of the top Immigration Lawyers under 40 in the country, has co-authored her first book on the topic, and has her sights set on politics. Aside from that, she's my sounding board, and having nothing but time to talk on this trip home has been food for my soul. Life just isn't that bad when you have a best friend who has never judged you, and who's never flinched at any ridiculous question you might put out there.

And so, it was people, and moments like these, that have left me satisfied with my return home. My soul has been nourished and I'm ready to take on the world again. Not to mention I'm twice as fit now as when I showed up. Patagonia here I come.


Bond Head, Ontario. My homeland!

No trip home is complete without a few days spent frolicking in the centre of the universe, er...uh, I mean, Toronto.

Colin was climbing mountains in Patagonia, so I devised another way for him to be with us on Christmas Day -- as a Christmas ornament!

Parry Sound, where my mother was raised, and where I spent most of my childhood.  A return to Parry Sound always involves a visit to Aunt Alicia's house.

She made us steak and kidney stew. "Oh, thank you Aunt Alicia, I'm just totally full. Can't do it, just no room for even a try!". Hahaha, ooooo, gross!

That's my little brother! And his little girl, Callie.

Me, holding Callie while she sleeps. This was the first time in my life I had ever held a sleeping baby! Hahaha....

Aunt and nephew chilling while watching Charle Brown's Christmas.

Emmett and his ever present "Sus". That's what he calls his soother?! 

Callie and Kathryn. Awwww, she's so cute!!!

Christmas at the Hart's.

Second Christmas with the Ryder's in Rosseau. This isn't even half of us!

Now doesn't that look like an appealing place to have Christmas dinner?

Hmmm, very artsy.