This Project 5430 entry will be breaking from the norm a little, but there’s a reason. Besides that, it’s my blog so I can do whatever I want, right? Anyhow, it’ll be different because Melanie doesn’t live here in the Gore-Tex Vortex, although she did at one time. The reason(s) I’m including her are simple: she’s a close friend, she is as awesome as awesome gets and she unequivocally defines the very reason I started this project — she “gets it”.
I met Mel many years ago, probably fourteen or fifteen ago. We were both part of the climbing community here in Colorado which back in the day was much, much smaller. Therefore it was almost predetermined that we would cross paths sooner or later. She was never one of those “I climb to look cool” or “I’ll wear the proper clothes and talk-the-talk but in reality I’m just a poser” types. She honestly loved climbing (hard climbing), loved life, LOVED the outdoors, loved the mountains and the whole living-consciously and free-spirited lifestyle. That’s why Mel and I always got along.
Unfortunately for me, the visceral call of adventure and the lure of another horizon got the best of Mel and she left Colorado. Along her journey she found herself living in Malaysia for a while, spent considerable time traveling throughout Southeast Asia and Nepal, served a few year stint up in Ketchum at Sun Valley Ski Resort and as of two or three years ago, landed in Spokane where she’s again involved in what she loves — the outdoors.
Through various circumstances, Spokane is where I caught up to her earlier this year. We’ve talked regularly since and as chance would have it, I wound up with an airline ticket I needed to use before the end of the year. That being the case I used the ticket and flew up to Washington a couple of weeks ago to hang out with her for a long weekend. No plan really, just went up to do a little hiking, maybe some climbing if the weather permitted, check out the amazing autumn colours of the Pacific Northwest, explore Cour d’Alene, ID and generally get ourselves caught up on the last seven years.
Mel is uniquely Mel. Always was, still is, always will be. That’s what I love about her. She is likely the most genuine person you’d ever meet and regardless of where you come into or exit her life, she’s exactly the same. When she picked me up from the airport it was like we’d seen each other every day since she left Colorado…just without a few details.
I’ll admit this year has been a hard one for me emotionally. A lot has transpired and at times I’ve found myself searching for meaning and grasping at clarity. Don’t get me wrong, not all is grim in the life of Barry, quite the contrary actually, but because of certain events and experiences, I’ve really spent a lot of time reflecting on what is important in my life and thinking about what direction I want things to go from this point forward. And through some of those experiences, I’ve formed some amazing friendships that are unquestionably lifelong deals. Without going into any of the details, some of those difficult circumstances led Mel and me along the same path again and we were fortunately able to reconnect.
With the weather in the Pacific Northwest bordering on “iffy” all weekend, we hiked when we could, explored Cour d’Alene (in the rain) and met up with another friend (Jenn and her beautiful family) who lives there. We then thoroughly walked Spokane top to bottom and along the way filled in seven years of blanks over some tasty food and “a few” hopped and/or fermented beverages.
With every conversation we had, which was essentially non-stop, Melanie actually brought some soulful clarity to much of the cloudiness I’d found myself in this year — though she had no idea she was giving me that insight. Sometimes it wasn’t what she said, but it was her almost visible passion to live life that was screaming at me to take heed. And heed I have taken.
Mel knows how to live the dream. She is an elite athlete, though she’d never admit it. She’s not into the trophy hunting or boasting about accomplishments in her pursuits but rather she does them simply because she loves them. Again, that’s what makes her so good at her job and such an amazing person — she carries a sincere passion that she can share with others. Spend 20 seconds with her and you’ll see what I mean. Spend a day playing in the mountains with her and you’ll get your ass kicked….in a good way of course.
People take life for granted every day. They live as if it’ll go on forever and waste time worrying about the most stupid things imaginable. And then there are people who know what an amazing gift this life is and fill it with travel and adventure, fill it with love, fill it with acceptance, fill it with a sincere passion for living and will unselfishly share those things with everyone. That’s Melanie.
Mel and I may never live close to each other again, then again, maybe we will. Who knows? Regardless, one thing I know for sure, and I think I can speak for her too, is that our friendship and spiritual connection will continue to endure the test of time. It’s a result of that connection people who live our lifestyle have. It’s not tangible, but you can just feel it when your with other people who “get it”. It’s the reason I started this project. It’s why Mel and I became friend and remain friends today.
Hopefully this winter I’ll be able to head back up to rip a few turns in the deep powder of Washington and Idaho with Melanie. I also hope that in the future I’ll be able to give Melanie a fraction of what she’s given me by just knowing her and calling her my friend.