Friday, December 9, 2016

A Friday Post

I've been sick all week; hence no posts. I've had a fever as high as 103.4F.  Today I feel human again.  I'm hoping I'm finally on the mend.  I had a few different things I could have written about despite being basically laid up in bed all week.  But I had to put all that aside.  I had to process a bit.  Yesterday Dave texted me and told me our mutual friend John Haight had killed himself.  Its just crushing news when you hear of this happening to anyone, but when its someone you knew it leaves something of a hole.  It makes the world seem a little less ordered.  I did my best at a post in regards to this.

The first time I met John Haight was at Pebble Beach in the Red River Gorge in probably 1997.  I had heard about him from some mutual friends from Morehead. They spoke of a climber called "Hop."  Despite a few local tours of Clack Mountain and Slabcamp by the mutual friends I never ran into John.  That day at Pebble Beach I had just sketched my way up a 5.7 hand crack called Environmental Impact.  John casually walked up a gear protected slab called Central Scrutinizer. Hanging from the anchors over the crack I took a photo of John on that upper slab.  We chatted along with everyone else at the crag that day but it would be years before our paths crossed again.

Some time after that my climbing partner and I went to visit Slabcamp.  As we drove in on Clack East we passed John on his road bike just crushing it.  It's still less than ordinary to see serious road cyclists in Eastern Kentucky and maybe more so then.  John was an accomplished cyclist as well as a good climber.

When my family owned Red River Outdoors John would stop in frequently and chat.  We never climbed together, but we shared common interests.  Maybe that became more apparent at the IMBA trail clinic in Morehead last year.  We both attended and after the clinic John wanted to come help with the trail work in Flat Hollow.  He'd also asked if he could hire my professional skills to help lay out a camping area at Graining Fork Nature Preserve (Roadside Crag) in which he was part owner.  We talked about the potential for mountain biking in the Red and around Morehead.  We definitely had the same vision.

Last Easter John was in a bad car wreck.  I never got the details, but apparently it hurt him pretty bad.  He had a long slow recovery.  His wife April had to skip one of our IMBA formation meetings because "John was having a bad day."  I knew it wasn't a good situation.

I guess the last time I talked to John was at Roadside.  He was helping his partner Grant Stephens on his cabin. Lily and I stopped to chat with them.  We talked big plans.  Then the wreck.

I'm a bad friend.  I wanted to call.  I didn't have his number.  I could have gotten it from Dave.  It was just awkward.  And that's no excuse.

I was in Morehead more than once after the wreck.  I meant to call and maybe go visit.  I blew it.  I'm a bad friend.

I don't think my having visited him would have helped.  But I could have shown him I cared about what he was going through.  That's on me.  

John took his own life on December 7th.  I don't know the details.  I'm not going to even speculate here.  I know John had a passion for the outdoors and a great deal of energy and life.  He'll be greatly missed in the outdoor community in Eastern Kentucky.  He was well known as a climber, a cyclist, a trailrunner, a paddler, and in Adventure Racing circles.  I'm sure there is much about John that I didn't know.  I'm sure that is the greatest loss, that more people won't get to know him and share in his passion for the world.

John focused during the 2014 Fig Adventure Race

The only thing I can think to do to honor his memory and the memories of others I've know who've taken their own lives is to try and create as much light in the world as I can so the darkness has no refuge.  There is no use in looking for meaning.  There's no use in giving in to the despair.  All that matters is to fight the darkness with everything we've got.

Here's a lesser known line from the famous Dylan Thomas poem.  Knowing John this seemed more appropriate:

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight, 
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way, 
Do not go gentle into that good night.

See you on down the trail, my friend...