The Mind in Focus – Mountains and Latin Mottos

Sometimes I find it hard to focus, bring all the elements together in some form to comprehend.  A glitch just beyond the motivated shell you create to make it through the brain bleeding pressure cooker days.

This is the time when I need a reboot, pump the veins full to the 9’s of that thing you can’t fathom from behind your office walls and the comforts of plush down covers and Italian coffee makers.

Some days I go to work in the morning, then head out after lunch, chill in Star Bucks with a chocolate chip cookie and coffee writing my dissertation, then go over anodic bonding, and finish up with a review of the last German lesson before heading next door to the Inlingua language school by the Stauffacher tram stop where I sit brain-drained as my German teacher points out my lazy pronunciations and misrepresentation of the akkusativ.

When the soul cries out for an adventure you’re a fool to deny it.

Santis is the mountain for when you want high adventure without the effort required of a real alpine beast.  You can ascend from nearly every direction and I’ve been up three different paths in the past four years – in summer that is.  In winter snow morphs the mountain into a different breed of excursion.  Last year I turned back on a snowshoe ascent due to staying too long at the bar the night before – and general laziness.  Plus there were long streams coming off the peaks and I knew in my heart that it was the best to avoid the prospect of permanently visiting the nearest climber’s cemetery.

But those were comfortable days when relenting made sense – when the prospect of turning back seemed ok.  These days are illuminated by different suns – for now the PhD culmination looms threateningly beyond the next few months and there was that Functional Surfaces exam on Feb. 12th.  I may have passed it, but I screwed up the section on polymer surfaces, the topic of reversible reactions, I probably should have started talking about block copolymers.  Now the exam is done with and it’s too late for bright ideas.

Without the drive to conquer the physical trials you present to yourself, how can one hope to tackle the analogous mental ones? 

Summiting peaks is a pointless exercise in determination – and in my eyes, no different than dedicating three years to a PhD.  But we do many things which appear pointless on the surface.

"Mens sana in corpore sano."

"A sound mind in a sound body."

The school motto was one of the few useful things that I took away from Detroit Country Day School.

Halfway up Santis I ran into the Hut warden near the pass.  In the end I took the route down the other side of the pass to Schwende, instead of the route up Altmann and the summit ridge to the Santis summit.  The conversation was short and in German (the language class did work), in summation he said there was too much snow, and that it was better not to be featured in the newspaper on Monday or Tuesday – so that one would not need to read about another fool climber claimed by the Alps.

I took his advice, crossed the mountain pass and then half-skied, half-walked down to Schwende.  Backcountry sking isn’t easy for me, and it’s a tad chaotic when trying to do it in the Alps with short trekking skies.  Eventually I made it back to Zurich where I wrote these words to fulfill my pointless need to write.