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Letting Go

Jeff Johnson
Late Summer 2007

He talks with a long, swaggering drawl and sharp, concentrated intonations. Half cowboy, half Indian. It’s like listening to John Wayne and Crazy Horse speak at the same time. Our morning began in his humble abode discussing the state of the human spirit.
He said, “You have to summon a special kind of energy to climb 5.15 or V14. It’s incredible. But I’m more concerned with where it’s all coming from. Are they motivated by the climb itself, the rock? Or is it comin’ from some video they saw on the internet?”
He put another log into the wood-burning stove, walked into the kitchen and poured himself some coffee.

He went on: “I’m just tryin’ to make sense of it all, you know? How are we supposed to evolve when we’re so caught up in material things? Society is so anxious. We want so much and we want it all, now. Man ... you need to work at it, you need to put in the time in order to be rewarded.”

The winter sun shown through the clouds as it crept over the walls of lower Yosemite Valley. Soft light surrounded the small, one-room cabin, lending an ethereal glow to our movements. It was still very cold outside.

“Ron,” I said, “the sun should be hitting the Cookie Cliff by now. It could be warm enough to climb.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” he said. “I need more wood for this stove.”
We went outside to the woodpile. Ron grabbed his axe and lifted it high above his head. With his smooth, arcing blow, the log gave way to a tiny split. He swung again and the log split in two. He split those two into four.

“You wanna try?” he said.


About the Author

For Jeff Johnson, climbing and surfing are parallel devotions, following lines drawn on rock and water. Whether it’s searching for endless splitter cracks or perfect waves, he says, “We’re all after the same thing.” Using his van as his second home, Jeff divides his time between Ventura, California – where he works as a photographer and writer at the Patagonia headquarters – and wherever else he happens to find himself.