Geologic Time is Now

Geologic Time is Now, photo by Sarah Myers

“Life’s not about waiting for the storms to pass…It’s about learning to dance in the rain.” ~ Vivian Greene

While the above quote was not in Aron Ralston’s memoir, Between A Rock and A Hard Place, it easily could have been in the book as it portrays Aron’s extraordinary ability to take a hardship and turn it into an empowerment.

Aron Ralston’s memoir, Between A Rock and A Hard Place is one of the best memoirs I have read. Reading the book was a journey, and Aron takes his readers to scale the heights, ski the mountains, feel the chase of the bear, and taste the risks he took. While some have called the memoir too ego-filled, I found it to be the story of Aron’s fast-paced outdoor-escapades filled life. While I haven’t taken all the risks he has or found as much joy in adrenaline pumping climbing or heights-daring, I can relate with many of his experiences. The book recounts his outdoor experiences and what ultimately brought him to Blue John Canyon, UT and beyond.

I had been meaning to read this book since 2003, when the shocking nature of his accident in Blue John Canyon first came out. I had skimmed through it several times and always meant to read it thoroughly, but at the time, didn’t have a huge interest in memoirs. That has changed for me in the last 5 years and I am now finding myself choosing memoirs and biographies with human-interest and survival themes. Why? I want to understand how and why people survive life’s challenges. This true story is also to be made into a movie and I have a rule about books-to-movies: I always read the book first before seeing the movie.

In April 2003, Aron Ralston, a mega-experienced climber and outdoorsperson, began his single-day planned trip through Blue John Canyon along the western side of Canyonlands National Park. A good synopsis of the story outlines his trip to the Canyon mouth via bicycle, then his hiking ascent into the Canyon, with the ultimate shifting of an 800 pound rock that trapped his hand between the boulder and the canyon wall. Aron survived for several days and nights with his arm pinned and the impending knowledge that chances for rescue were quite slim. He made preparations for his own death, while continuing to fight for his life and chip away at the rock. He chipped the quote “Geologic Time is Now” into the rock, a quote from Jerry Roach.  A riveting interview with Aron Ralston is available on the NPR site. Better yet, read his book and you’ll relive his experiences. At the point when Aron realized he had to break and amputate his own hand, I literally could not put the book down. Most people have heard the story on the news, through blogs, or other sources, as I had. But it was truly something else to read about it as Aron walks his readers through the mental process and logic of his actions to save himself. The book also does more: it inspires, it teaches, and it motivates. When Aron describes his dreamlike vision seeing a one-armed man with a small child, the reader will be chilled and awed. This vision is partly what inspired Aron to think creatively, despite having very little food or liquid and his brain and body were greatly weakened.

When I first started reading the book, I thought it was to be entirely about the accident and ultimate survival in Blue John Canyon. I was mistaken and gladly so. For a person like me who loves quotes, the book is filled with meaningful quotes and sayings that were all highly applicable to the content. The book alternates chapters between the Canyon accident and Aron’s mountaineering experiences. I was on my toes reading about his hikes and climbs and all the near misses. His endurance is stunning and enviable. His fearlessness in achieving summits and high points was thrilling. His risk-taking was perturbing. I was physically shaken and emotional in reading of his ultimate survival and rescue, much of it self-rescue; and then what he has done since the accident with sharing his story and survival with others as a motivational speaker, continuing to climb and push the limits, and to be a role model for others with physical challenges. Aron Ralston overcame the hardship, worked through the challenges, and continues to be involved in his passion with the outdoors and to give meaning to ‘the gift of life’ and the ‘meaning of life’, as unique as it is for each and every one of us.  Highly recommended.

Happy Reading!