We were doing rope work at Dutton Cave in northeast Iowa, almost thirty years ago, when my son was not quite yet in his teens. He was, I think, about ten or eleven years old.

The maw of this cozy cavern is perfect for rappelling as the top of the opening is accessible via a short climb through brush and bramble on either side of the cave proper. At the crown of the vertical granite face, overlooking the drop, is where the ropes were set in place. Playtime prep work was done by the (far) more experienced members of our merry band of adventurers. My son and I, neophytes to the world of spelunking, were simply along for the ride.

Prior to the free-fall exhilaration of gliding down a nylon rope – climbers dutifully attached to said rope wearing only an awkwardly cumbersome but oh-so-necessary corded harness to aid in their ascent or descent – the group elders decreed that one must first successfully climb from the relatively flat, rock-strewn bottom to the sloping, rock-strewn top of the cave wall – an upward span of forty agonizing feet. Doing so, peering into the darkness of the cave or looking out at the tops of the trees in the park, relative to one’s orientation while suspended from the rope at various height intervals, climbers rise slowly up the rope via a stepping motion using a mechanical device known as an ascender.

My time with the group was short-lived and I don’t claim to possess even a modicum of expertise or the skillful ability to correctly employ the appropriate jargon of the sport. So I ask more diligent readers to please bear with me. I will tell you, however, that rope climbing using these ascenders is both a difficult and a most satisfying endeavor.

Once a climber cleared the cave opening, all that stood in the way of reaching terra firma was the delicately demanding act of pushing the ascender up the rope while maneuvering it up and over and then past the rock-lip of the surface where the rope lies. This is not an easy task given the weight of the climber enhanced by the pull of gravity, which makes for a very tight surface connection of rope to rock. However, once achieved, this climber – and this climber’s son who was not at all happy with his mother for insisting he do this! – were both rewarded with instant euphoria. That satisfying bite of the rope as the ascender cleared the rock and slid its way up the track of the rope allowing first me and then my son to summit the top of the cave entrance made the physical and mental challenges of completing the task entirely worth the effort.

Now, at last, we were able to enjoy rappelling back down to the spot where we began our incredible little climbing adventure. And it was all good.

Daily Prompt: Bite

I think all of us would love for the world to be a joyous place filled with strawberry ice cream, confetti, helium balloons and colorful streamers where we dance in the streets with lively music filling the air from every rooftop under sunny blue skies dotted with happy little clouds. There would be no crime, no disease, no disabilities, no avarice, no greed. Everyone is smart! Everyone is beautiful! People would have each others’ best interests at heart and kindness and compassion would be the order of the day.

That’s the stuff of fairy tales and we all know it.

Some people operate under the weight of the direct opposite of that fantasy ideal and almost collapse from the self-imposed negativity of trying to right too many wrongs. Noble, yes but the reality of the ugliness in the world can be too much for anyone to deal with day in and day out, year after year after year if indeed adherence to such a lofty goal is able to sustain itself for any extended period of time.

On the flip side, however, are those individuals for whom unpleasantness must be avoided at all costs. These are the folks, God Bless ‘Em, who insist on only viewing their world with optimism. They do not – ever – wish to be made aware of anything that challenges their funny, furry, fuzzy, fluffy outlook. Too often, these fortunate ones have not yet had to grapple with doubt or struggle or unfairness or financial worry or inequality or hardship or poverty or loss or isolation or physical unattractiveness. Theirs has always been a lovely, wonderful world. I’ve wondered whether they are aware that most people’s lives are not similarly blessed or if they realize that so many others won’t ever enjoy the good life these Golden Ones sometimes take for granted.

It’s true that negativity in a person is an undesirable trait; however, cheerful yet unmitigated and relentless avoidance of the harsh actualities of the Real World is hardly admirable – or practical – either.

Daily Prompt: Fluff

Age creeps up on us all and while it does create new challenges, many of which are related to body ailments and an increase in physical limitations, the added years also afford us perspectives not previously embraced. The older I get I begin to understand there are demons I’ve fought my entire life. I recognize now the people in my life who’ve always had my back as well as the sad realization there are others who do not — no matter how hard I’ve tried to garner their true love, support and acceptance. One can only channel Sally Field for so long.

And so, I try not to dwell on my hurt and disappointment. Instead, I’m working on appreciating what I do have — and it’s a bunch! — and taking better care of myself even if that means letting go in the appropriate manner.

Daily Prompt: Release

We navigate our lives with arms stretched out before us, unsure of what lies ahead. We find our way, we learn, we grow. Soon, we are enmeshed in the familiar, the sameness, the comfort of what’s known, providing us with the warm satisfaction of safety, nesting and contentment. But this same familiarity can often lead to stagnation, boredom and restlessness whether or not we are aware of its impact. We require change and challenges if we are to grow.

So, if we are to enjoy continued reawakenings – those grand feelings of awe and self-nurturing – we must recreate ourselves. New mantles undertaken with enthusiasm, perhaps tinged with caution and restraint, are key to exploring new realms of what we are capable of becoming. Climbing those mountains, learning new skills and acquiring new tools for living, touring exotic locales, opening ourselves up to infinite possibilities are all positive and exciting facets of lives not just well lived but truly, truly lived.

Daily Prompt: Recreate

Pizza oozing,
with temptation
certain to both
sate and deflate
with every glorious

Thick crust or thin
(thin, please)
(lots of it)
basil and oregano
spicy Italian sausage
crispy capicola.

Flavorful? Oh, my.
she says
wiping the drool
while simultaneously
the cholesterol check
she’s put off for too long.

Daily Prompt: Flavorful

She’s a hard woman to like
let alone love.

I know I should try harder.

She is weak, manipulative
and lacking in charm.
She is joyless and self-pitying
and worries about
every. little. thing.
On steroids.

I should be more caring, more tolerant.
Patience is not my strong suit.
It would be easier to show sympathy
if she were someone pleasant,
someone cheerful, someone fun.

But no. Instead, she is the dullest person
on the planet.
I’m pretty darn sure of it.
And seems content to inflict her misery on the rest of us
instead of making her own way,
finding her own happiness.

Yes, I suppose I should be more kind
but damn if she doesn’t make it
almost impossible to care.

Daily Prompt: Sympathy