I woke about half an hour before the sun started to pop above the White Mountains to the east and light up the top of Basin Mountain and the rest of the Sierra Crest with that unearthly neon orange glow you only see in the most special places in the world, one of them being there in The Buttermilks. After changing out of the previous days clothes, which I had slept in, and into some slightly less pungent attire, I grabbed a beer and my camera and scrambled around the boulders above our dirt parking lot campsite to watch the sunrise.
Enrique emerged from his sleeping bag just as the alpenglow lightshow was in full effect. What a way to wake up, I thought. I was prepared for it and waited anxiously for it, and knew exactly what to expect. But this was Enrique’s first time in the Buttermilk Country. Seeing that stripe of bright orange-red stretch for many miles across the tip of the Sierra on the western horizon, he probably questioned his sanity, or at least wondered if he was still dreaming.
We washed down our energy bars with cold beers from the ice chest, then packed up our rudimentary camp and headed off to the Peabodies for a little world-class bouldering before it got too hot.
We walked between the sagebrush and scrambled from boulder clump to boulder clump, me familiar with every line on every boulder, but seeing everything for the first time through Enrique’s virgin eyes. Hampered by chronic injuries, my bouldering career was waning, but Enrique’s was still early in the upward arc, and rather than being jealous, I was finding solace and joy in his wonderment.
After about 45 minutes of throwing ourselves against the rough granite of the Peabody Boulders, we sat down beneath the shade of another stunning boulder to rest for a few minutes. In silence, we sipped a little water, and then pulled two more cold beers from our packs.
Enrique had a glazed look in his eyes, and he could barely speak. After a few moments, he was able to utter those simple words that I will remember for the rest of my life:
“This…this is my place!”
There we were, on that warm fall day in October 1999, spending a few hours exploiting the weaknesses in the rock that made us strong, finding the imperfections in the boulders that made the lines perfect. It was just another place where nature’s randomness could not have been any more beautiful if it had been planned that way. And that’s where Enrique found it.
Whether you realize it or not, everyone is on a never-ending search to find their place.
It may not even be just one place, but two, three, or more places. But what they have in common is that they define the essence of our being.
And the place often changes over time, depending on what we’re doing, and what we’re in to; what we’re feeling, and what we’re experiencing at a particular stage of our lives.
But when we find our place, it speaks to us. And we speak back.
When we’re younger, we say “I could live here!”
When we’re a little older, we say “I could die here!”
And when we’re a lot older, we say “After I die, this is where I want my ashes spread.”
And that is the true definition of finding your place. It’s a simple point on a map that somehow manages to capture your mind, your body, and your heart so perfectly that you find yourself becoming one with it. It’s the place where you could spend eternity.
“This…this is my place!”