Chris Writes

My life in real time

One Is Enough

Sometimes I feel like a sick child being force fed my black soup.

I woke up this morning and opened up the laptop.  On Safari, I had a great article on how to eat in remote alpine environments.  There was three articles discussing today’s repeal and replace debacle.  Another article on Trump’s continued fascination with everything Putin.  Then there was my Facebook account, feeding me today’s trending articles at a rapid clip.  My last screen was an empty blog post on my WordPress account.  Just tempting me to write something.

My eyes glazed over the articles, reading a paragraph here and there.  I tossed the laptop in my bag and took the bus to work.  On the ride, I listened to an excellent Sam Harris podcast focused on how the rest of the world is perceiving this surreal reality that is America today.

At work, I pulled out the latest edition of The Atlantic and Harpers and set it aside for my lunch break.  The covers of both figured prominently many articles about Trump.

Meanwhile, all I could think about was that empty blog post waiting for me.  Then I thought about Thoreau.

“And I am sure that I never read any memorable news in a newspaper. If we read of one man robbed, or murdered, or killed by accident, or one house burned, or one vessel wrecked, or one steamboat blown up, or one cow run over on the Western Railroad, or one mad dog killed, or one lot of grasshoppers in the winter, – we need never read of another. One is enough. If you are acquainted with the principle, what do you care for a myriad instances and applications?”


Our world is so drastically faster.  Our hungers too.  Yet, we want to move backward to a simpler time.  A time, not too long ago, where we didn’t have instant access devices.  We could disconnect and we would.

How few opportunities we have to just be present.  I met my wife over the internet.  One of the funny things we do is sit together in front of our laptops making snide comments about each other on Facebook.  We are so wired in.  I am so wired in and sometimes I can barely move.

It isn’t how I want my daughter to experience her childhood.  I got a chance to run around in wild places, to get lost, and imagine my own worlds.  There was no visuals guiding me.  There was no Lord of The Rings movies.  We only had the books and what we imagined each character to be.  We exercised our creativity always.

On an ordinary day, I spend at least 7 hours at work on the computer.  I go home and burn a few more on my laptop or watching television.  Yet, all I ever want to do is drive to Yosemite and stay there for a month.  I have these guidebooks to places like the Bugaboos.  Otherworldly places I have yet to visit.  Beautiful places I have been meaning to come back to.  The Cordillera Blanca in Peru.  The High Sierra.  I see pictures on Facebook from my favorite climbers.  They are in these places now.  These places feel so far away from a laptop screen in Seattle.

We are always forgetting to let fresh air in.  To save our capacities for the meaningful things.  There is so much going on in this world and we try so hard to keep up.  I guess I don’t ask myself what is it all for?  Why do I need to know so much about what’s going on in the world?  How is all of it contributing positively to my life?  If I am unable to filter the information, should I just turn my back on it completely?

I feel that I am well acquainted with the principle.  Is that not enough?







Men Who Were Violated

In another life I used to write and speak about child abuse.  It was hard work.  I worked for a nonprofit which required me to go there with audiences.  In public venues, I shared details of my life I thought would remain buried forever.  I was often attacked by victims just like me.  Men who were violated.  Men who hadn’t come to terms with their abuse.  I shared something that gave them hope but raised an intense anger within them.

They questioned my story of abuse.  I was labeled a liar or gay or a coward smearing his family without giving them the opportunity to defend themselves.  I was impossible to many.  Boys and men can’t be victims of abuse, especially those abused by a woman.  If they are, they probably let it happen.  They must have wanted it.  It is this dark psychological soup we are churning in.  Us invisible men.  Every man learns to hide their weaknesses, all of them.  We hide it through denial, overcompensation, or hypermasculinity.  A male survivor talking about his abuse gives up the game.  It’s a betrayal.

It was a difficult period.  I needed it to survive.  To be a good father.  To acknowledge and grieve my own devastating losses.  The loss of a relationship with a parent.  The death of the child I had once been.  A sudden, ripping death without reason or explanation.  I had to make my own reasons for what happened, and they all came to the same conclusion.  He chose me because there was something wrong with me.  I was a disgusting and rotten apple.

In every other way he was the typical dad.  Working hard.  Sacrificing personal goals.  Sacrificing everything to make sure his family was fed.  There was just this one tiny thing and it only had to do with me.  They say that we carry the voices of our mothers and fathers with us everywhere.  It is in our superego, lecturing us, judging us, incriminating us, and destroying us.  I can’t rid myself of this voice on my shoulder that scrutinizes everything I do.  That tells me that I am nothing and there is nothing consequential about my life.  This voice explains away every victory.  It refuses to take credit for anything I should be proud of.  It is my father’s voice.  My mother’s too.  She couldn’t protect me, and maybe she always knew.  Those lingering questions stretch off into infinite and there is no satisfactory answer.  No way to recover all those essential things that were stripped away.

I’ve come a long way.  I have shared my experiences with many family members and received their reactions, and sometimes forgiven them for the damage they continue to cause. This was not the man they knew.  So I have taken something from them.  An ideal.  I didn’t ask for this burden, but it is mine to bear.

The irony of all of this is that I have become an advocate for this man who abused me.  I am making the preparations for a respectful departure.  He is so weak, as I was when he took away everything, and I want to rage.  I want to scream in his face.  I want to let him know that I hate him for what he did.  I just can’t do it though.  The vulnerable should be protected.  I know what happens when they aren’t and no one deserves that.

















Dying To Give Life


She has a hard exterior, perhaps too hard.  She can lull one into thinking that she can deal with any setback.  That she will bounce back.  She is fearfully anxious of being judged, being found out.  Being abandoned.  The loss of a friend can be catastrophic.  Whether that friend was good for her or not doesn’t always matter.  She is incredibly capable and at the same time incredibly vulnerable.

Her greatest moment was the birth of her child.  I was there when it happened.  I saw it.  The locks of hair protruding then receding back in.  Then an incredible physical push and out came this tiny little cabeza and face to match.  This was my greatest moment too.

You don’t really understand what this little thing will become.  They become you.  Reflections of you and her.  I still look into her eyes, like a pool of water, and ask is that me in there?  Is that who I am?

The other day my daughter said,” Badges?!  We don’t need no stinking’ badges!” then she farted on my leg.  Confirmation.  No DNA test needed.

Her mother was sick for 8 long months.  It’s a condition that debilitates expectant mothers.  You are sick every day.  You can’t eat.  You are too weak to walk or sit.  You take intravenous fluids 5 times a week to maintain.  It’s visually indistinguishable from those who are dying.  She suffered through it and I was her caretaker.

Our daughter was the result.

Only the love of a mother would make any woman want to go through that again.  It is in these times when I understand that women are built differently.  They possess a drive that feels impossible or incomprehensible.  It goes largely unacknowledged and under appreciated.  Some call these things instincts.  To me, pregnancy and birthing are miracles of sacrifice.  I will cede that there is no other earthly feat that compares.  To willingly do this with hyperemesis gravidarum is something else entirely.

Yet, she was built to survive.  She only needed me to say yes, let’s do it again.  All that pain and suffering ahead of us felt like a gift from the highest power, to her.  Me too.








Am I allowed to be angry with you?  I keep asking myself that question.  Dad is dying, so why am I so angry with how you are handling it?  We’ve all seen the movies.  Dad is dying.  His wife never leaves his bedside.  Her concern is only for him.  Every decision she makes is for that purpose.  That’s what I believed.

We are losing our father.  You are losing your life partner.  Your only real relationship.  He’s provided stability for you your entire adult life.  He was the calming yin to your serially anxious yang.  Now he is a confused old man whose body is shutting down.

I see him in that bed, his stomach ballooning from all the trapped liquid in his system.  His small face, wracked with anxious glances, hovers above this wasted shell.  I want to take that small face and spirit it off to a healthier place.

I realize that little of this is in my control.  Not even you, mother.  You spend all this time complaining about how much work it is taking care of dad.  A record player that keeps skipping endlessly into his ear.  He just looks at you, feeling like a burden, wanting to go away to ease your hardship.

We spend all of our time trying to figure out how to ease your hardship.  There is very little left to focus on our dad.  On giving him some peace.

This is real dying I guess.  It scares me.  I am not religious or superstitious but there is something about dying in the middle of chaos and turmoil that lingers on in the earth.  Will we not give this man his moment of reflection?  Of comfort?  The moments are less and less and we are squandering them.  I just want a moment.

That’s all I want.

Hello Again Blog


It’s been a while.  I wanted to write in you every day, but i’ve been struggling.  Some of it good, some bad.  I’ve been trying to stay away from current events, but every new tweet seems to introduce something sinister and partisan and exclusive.  I now know how it feels to have a President in office who has no interest in my concerns.  Not even an effort to pretend to be inclusive.  No token gestures.  Just nothing.

I have never read so many great and insightful articles on the current state of America today.  It feels like journalism is entering another golden age.  Unfortunately it’s almost all about one man.  He magnifies our fears, almost consciously.  This atmosphere of chaos and petty actions and petty arguments seems intended.  To accept him we have to buy into his warped sense of reality, which is an impossibility for Americans like me.

I just don’t know how much longer he can dangle his delusional road trip in front of our shaking heads.  Will the Republicans save America?  Will they intervene for the sake of the people, or even in the name of their own questionable principles?

There is no more expectation that this man will tack into the winds of reality.  I fully expect him to waste our money on the wall that we never asked for.  The wall that was already there.  There is a wall between Americans like me and everything he brings forward every day.  Obama was so warm and open and human.  He used reason and common sense to guide him.

I understand that many of us are disgusted with these Cabinet picks.  Yet, all these people flow from a poison lake.  He is the ultimate unsuitable incompetent.  So how enraged can we really get with DeVos and Pruitt and the rest?

These concerns have a way of drowning out the day.  The things we do to take care of ourselves.  I realize more how my family is such a source of happiness and renewal.  I need to cuddle with my daughter and read books to her, for her benefit and for myself.  This is normal.  This is healthy.  This is a reminder that the reach of narcissistic misogynist leaders is limited.  They can’t get to this.

The truth has never been more valuable.  I see it in the resurgence of Dan Rather on Facebook.  I see in the David Frum’s surreal How To Build An Autocracy.  I see it in Jake Tapper refusing to yield to Trump’s latest talking head.  With chaos comes opportunity.  The stories that are being told are heartbreaking and disturbing and sober.  But they need to be told.

It’s a time to assess what is meaningful to you.  It’s a time of action.  Adding your name and address to the petition just does not cut it in this world.  We have grown lazy in our cozy little worlds.  But it feels like many of us are waking up and being citizens.  For the first time.

We love our country.  Our institutions.  Our neighbors.  Whether they be immigrants or transgender or excluded by this administration.  We want to protect all those people and all of those things.

Blog,  I wish we had other problems, but this is it and here we are.  Thanks for lending an ear.



A Message To Her

I wonder how it was we came to be here.  In some ways our relationship is better than ever.  We have a foundation built on our family life.  Our daughter binds us together forever.  We are able to pursue our individual passions with the comfort of knowing we have each other.  I feel a confidence in myself that I only feel with the presence of you.  You know me and my inner demons.  You give me space because I am the kind of person who needs alot of space.  So are you.

We used to be reckless.  We used to have very little responsibility.  We were young and in love.  I look back with fond memories.  It was nice to just wake up and be out the door in minutes.  If anything i’ve learned about us now is that we can carry the weight.  We have held onto some backbreaking burdens.  We have struggled and clawed our way back into the light.  In our beginning we should have broken up.  What I put you through.  I don’t know how we got through it.

Every struggle we have now is informed by that initial scar tissue.  I see the person you’ve become and it is surreal the you that is you here and now.  Your motherhood.  Your independent businesswoman.  Your nasty woman.  Your advocate.  Your goddess who sings and practices magik.  Your wife who pleads for more intimacy.

I was never scared off or bothered by who you have become.  I admired it and wanted it to continue.  It continues.

It’s a weird time to be in my 40’s.  I feel so uncertain about so many things.  All I have is you to rely on.  My constant.  I need you to believe me and convince me again and again to believe in myself.  I don’t always do.  I love you.  I know you.

I don’t know many people but I know you.  I have watched you for many years.  You pushed me away.  You inspired me.  You showed me how to be.  You angered and frustrated me.  You were in my grasp and perpetually out of reach.

Sometimes I feel too selfish to wait to have you.  To be with you.  To have you tell me that I do exist.  To confirm that I am here and that you love me.  It is hard the sacrifices we make to have something more.  We don’t always get what we want or need but we have each other.

So I guess I could say you are the love of my life and that you are my one and only, but I guess I want to make a plea for a little more water and sunshine.  It’s how living things grow.  We have grown together.  We will continue to celebrate on the day after.  There’s too much to do.  So once again we defer us.

I just want you to know that I see this invisible thing.  Even though it doesn’t come first or second or third.  It is there and it is filled with love.  On long days when we forget and in brief moments when we remember.  I love you girl.  I wouldn’t know how to live a day without you.

When we first met I am not sure that I knew about what real love meant but I know it in you.  It’s not perfect.  It ripples like a current and lashes out in surprising and profound ways.  It’s the calm underneath the waves.  It’s quiet and nonverbal and knowing.  It’s how I can read your mind and you can mine.  Knowing.

Thanks for being my love.  For giving me a beautiful daughter.  For just being you, and trying to be more of you with each day.  I may mock you and smile knowingly, but I really am just filled with gratitude for the opportunity to be with you even if I don’t always know how to express it earnestly in that moment.  Happy Day After!







He Is Remembered

There was a stretch of a few years when I was new to climbing.  Everything I did, everything I learned was an exciting discovery.  So many treasures did I unearth in the Pacific Northwest.  A place I called home but, up until that point, hardly knew.

Climbing this place began my awareness of the land, the mountains, and the trees.  The animals too.  Oh, how they filled in the natural features with sound and life.  One could feel a sense of solitude, but never loneliness.

There was this leader, his name was Jack.  He had a reputation in our circle.  He rubbed folks the wrong way.  There was the story about how he led a crew up to the summit of Mt. Rainier in bad weather.  He should have turned back, but he didn’t.  He wanted that summit.  They got socked down due to high winds and swirling snow and ice.  A rescue helicopter had been called to pluck them back to civilization.  It was said he endangered the lives of the climbers he led that day.  Some criticized him and called him dangerous.  For that trip and others.

When I finally met him the first thing I noticed about him was his smile.  It was ever-present and infectious.  Like a joke being told without words.

Each summer we would have our cozy campfire in the Icicle Creek valley.  There was drinking and laughing.  Brian had the coals over his dutch oven with cherry cobbler bumbling underneath.  It had to be done just right and only he could do it.  We always gravitated toward Jack.  He was the center of the swirl of activity, holding court in his camp chair.  The campfire flickered across his thin, featured face.  You could always see his eyes, they felt so alive and feverish.

The first time I took my then girlfriend Ophelia he put out the welcome mat and made her feel like she was one of the clan.  She wasn’t a climber or a mountaineer, but she was part of the circle.  They talked and laughed and argued and debated, then laughed again.

I didn’t always get to see Jack, but I knew he wouldn’t miss the campfire.  Neither would I.

A time came when I aspired to be a climb leader myself.  He was the first person I came to.  He became a mentor and key figure in my own climbing story.  We planned a trip.  The idea was that he’d let me lead the trip and he’d sit back and make sure I didn’t kill myself or any students.  He was a strong personality, so I was a little concerned he would take over the entire trip.  What happened was the furthest thing.  He let me run the show.  He answered questions when I had them.  He made me look good.

Sadly I didn’t see a whole lot of Jack after our brief mentorship.  A couple of years later I heard that his wife called the mountain rescue.  He planned to climb Morningstar Peak solo and he was overdue.  No call.  No nothing.

They found him at the base of a mountain slope.  His dog was there by his side, in the snow.  Shivering and confused.

In the report of the accident, they found a blow to the back of his head.  It was thought that maybe he stopped on the slope and bent over for something and a piece of ice came down and struck him.

Life is funny like that.  People shuffling in and out of it.  Never knowing the significance they hold in one person’s journey.  In a hundred or a thousand.  They just go away one day, without so much as a goodbye.

Jack was strong of spirit.  No matter what we were doing, he was a source of great comfort to me.  Just knowing he was there.  It’s been many years now but I will always imagine him in his beloved mountains.  His “cathedral” as he always called.  High up there in on the throne of his god.



The Day After


My family exercising our freedom to assemble

Saturday is an important day.  We elected a misogynist to our highest office.  There is no room for debate anymore.  With the possibility of elevating our first woman President, we went the opposite way.  I know that a majority of folks voted for Hillary, but that just doesn’t sound good enough.  Almost half voted the other way.  That is a significant portion of Americans, no matter how we consider it.

That says something about us.  About the behaviors we are willing to accept.  Many women voted for this man.  Many of these women simply disliked Hillary.  They were willing to vote for a misogynist because they simply disliked “that woman.”

A significant number of women voted to make this happen.  So while men should always be looking inside ourselves and acknowledging some stark realities, women should equally be introspecting.  We should all take ownership over this result.

That is why women are marching on Saturday.  That is why I am marching with them.  I spent a great deal of emotional capacity willing the result we see today from happening.  Our children are watching everything that has been transpiring.  They are taking notes.

How do the two most important role models in my life respond to an outrageous and unacceptable result?  We march.  We cannot do this on Facebook or  We must do this in public.  We know that he will be paying attention and he must be reminded that he does not have the support of the majority of this country.

We will not just give him a chance.  He has behaved despicably and cowardly.  He has gone too far, again and again.  He has exposed and surpassed the limits of our sense of decency and respect for this highest honor.  So i’m marching and spending my time and money with organizations that will fight against everything he stands for.  There is no reason to provide him with any sort of leeway to do what he promised he would do.

This is the right thing to do if you love America.  If you love your children.  They are always watching and remembering what we do.  So we must do.

Our Collective Trauma

It’s been a test on us.  We grow up respecting our higher institutions.  I voted for George Bush.  The question about him was would he surround himself with competent people?  Would he listen to them?  There was never a question of whether he would respect the office he had so luckily been bestowed.  He had a great role model in Bush Sr., and we knew Barbara wasn’t afraid to grab him by the ear.

This past year many who feel the way I do were waiting for election day.  We felt this collective attack, not from the Republicans or the Russians, from something different.  Someone so far out of the spectrum of possibility.  A man who was embroiled in the Obama birth certificate craziness only a couple of years back.  He took over the media cycle, completely, and still does.

We needed some relief.  We needed this election to finish so that this maniac would go away.  It felt like a national trauma.  A shock to the system.  The numbers began rolling in.  Even this man didn’t believe he would be President.  He was already arranging television deals for his new network.  He spent no time vetting Cabinet positions because why bother right?  There was no chance.

President Trump took no steps to bring the majority of Americans back into the fold.  He filled his Cabinet with the inexperienced, the partisans, and the Wall Street billionaires tangled in a web of conflicts of interest.

So the trauma of President Trump continues for four long years.  The past three weeks have felt like a decade.  His first press conference simply showed that he planned to fight.  He has no interest in helping America heal by moderating his insanity.  He simply does what he has always done.

We knew what we were getting.  There are no surprises here.  Even as him presence destabilizes our government, or nation.  If I were to say someday we will look back on this time as a blip in the radar would you believe me?  Can this country survive a perpetually disruptive and malicious force such as this man?

What will be our standing after elevating a truly despicable human being to our highest office?  The only thing i’m certain of is that Trump will make alot of money off of this honorable position he has been bestowed.


Keep The Rock Moving

Personality is roughly defined as a complex pattern of characteristics that define an individual.  Each year we look at our behaviors and how we responded to them.  We pick out those challenges and vow for change.  For a different result.

We seek a different way of looking at things in this year 2017.  Yet, we have our established way of doing things, of seeing.  Our personality.  It is the most reliable thing about each of us.  It predicts the choices we will make.  It solidifies itself very early in life.  We encounter major life events.  We are given results and we respond to feedback.

Some results change us dramatically, but probably not as dramatically as it may seem.  We are still who we are.  Trauma may alter our perception of how safe our world is, but the same  personality is still working or trying it’s best to.

New Years is a relatively innocuous event each year.  It isn’t impactful over the long term.  We take a day or a week and look back.  We make resolutions.  We judge where we are in life and where we want to be.  I tell myself this time next year I want to be starting graduate school.  Things like that.  But whether it happens is largely removed from this small window of evaluation.

It’s not the New Year that means anything.  Dissatisfaction in the past year is not a great motivator for change.  It’s too shallow level.  There is no depth to it.  It doesn’t touch the real yearnings.  The real core issues in our lives.

Many months ago I started organizing my life.  I took all the things I wanted and needed to do and compiled them.  I set up a system for holding myself accountable.  A set of reminders so that I am forced to go back on everything I am working on.  Essentially I do what we all do at the end of each year, but on a weekly basis.

It’s been hard at times, to be reminded of projects and the seemingly agonizing length it takes to complete them.  I made the decision to do this because I know my personality.  I want to forget my hopes and dreams.  I want to shelf them because the pain of seeing them can feel too much for my heart to bear.  The pain became bearable when I broke each hope down to a sequence of actions.  Bite-sized chunks of activity that I am capable of completing NOW.

I have already accomplished more than I thought I could in just a few months.  I just want to continue on the path.  That is my humble resolution.  Keep the ball in my hands and run.