I wrote this short thing for the needle wizard,
pencil sorceress and all around magnificent friend, the lovely @outlanderedandoverhere. Master
Seamstress shares with me the love for Ed Sheeran and I couldn’t resist the
urge to have her doing a happy dance over this. Enjoy! X
I entered the small coffee shop, unfolding my
scarf as soon as I felt the merciful warmth of the heating system, aiming
towards a quiet table at the corner, as I shook off snowflakes from my curls.
As I waited for the small waitress to bring me
my cranberry scone and a large cup of steaming tea, I opened my notebook and
started reading the notes I had taken. It was a very hard case, a young patient
with a rare tumor compressing his bile duct – presenting with jaundice, looking
like the most recent character of The
Simpsons. The previous surgeon in charge of the case had announced it to be
unresectable, which gave him about three months of life expectancy. At the age
of thirty, you are seldom ready for your life to end – least of all without throwing
a good fight.
And that was what I was planning to offer him –
a risky procedure, only done in the past by a handful of surgeons in the
country. If it worked, he would be cancer free – and it was my job to guarantee
it worked. I had barely slept the last couple of nights, immersed in planning
the surgery to the finest detail.
I loved my job, fiercely – even in the moments
I hated it. I never lost the tingling on my palms when I held the scalpel or
the sudden feel of a jump inside my belly, like I had missed a step, whenever I
finished a hazardous procedure. Besides, it was a very welcome distraction from
the wreckage of my personal life.
I sipped my tea, delighted with the smoky taste
of the Highland blend, strong and homely on the back of my tongue. It reminded
me of the taste of his skin against
my lips and I swallowed hard, slightly shaking my head to disperse unwelcome
The bell above the door rang, a small tornado
of snow allowed in as new customers entered the cosy place. I bit the back of
my pencil, tilting my head to better discern an approach, as I mobilized the
invisible pancreas before me. I smiled, seeing the vessels and ducts so well
exposed in the eye of my mind, ready to be conquered, and raised my eyes to ask
for a second congratulatory scone.
I saw his back but recognized him immediately –
I had kissed that spot just behind his
ear, where his hair curled at the nape, countless times.
He was wearing his pilot uniform underneath his
overcoat, the flight captain’s hat placed next to his elbow on the table. I had
a sudden flash of his hands placing that hat on my head, a playful smile on his
full lips, his slightly callused hands roaming my otherwise naked body. No.
Without thinking, I was already making myself
small on my table, shrinking to the point where I could almost hide under the
tasteful tablecloth – wishing I had gone to another place, in another time, in
Only then I noticed he had company - a cute
blonde girl wearing stewardess clothes, her lips painted red to match the satin
scarf prettily tied around her neck in a bow. She sat in front of him on the
table, a complicit smile plastered on her face, as he talked – probably sharing
something about a recent trip.
He was always coming and going, flying around
the world – I remembered all too well setting my alarm to the middle of the
night, just so I could listen to his voice in Tokyo. Kissing him goodbye – there had been so many goodbyes, not enough
hellos – before he left to New York. Texting him, unsure where in the world
he was exactly – but painfully aware it wasn’t by my side.
The nights became so long, always craving,
always wondering. I felt split in two, half of myself scattered in the wind,
travelling on the air - while the other half was forced to anchor it, bearing
down, struggling with heaviness. There weren’t enough kisses to ease the
constant ache, as much as he tried – and
he had tried.
“Do ye not want me
anymore?” He had
asked me on the final night, broken – Oh,
I hadn’t answered him and in my silence he took
his leave, shoulders hunched in pain. In truth, I couldn’t fathom a time when I
wouldn’t want him – and that was the problem, wasn’t it? I kept wanting and wanting and wanting, wanting so much
everything hurt, wanting so much I feared I would physically break.
The flight attendant touched his hand – to my
horror he didn’t shy away from it. It lingered there, natural and possessive,
and I felt the scone doing cartwheels inside my stomach like a flour acrobat.
She leaned over and told him something,
slightly sticking her tongue out in mischief and he laughed. Throat and lungs
and vocal chords, clapping and singing, an orchestra on a perfect rendition of
amusement. Standing ovation from the crowd. Claire Beauchamp dead in the
He used to laugh like that with me. Jamie
always laughed with his entire body. He was that kind of man – whole in
everything he did. I recalled the sensation of his laugh as I laid my cheek on
his chest, a scientist studying the mechanisms of happiness. For a moment I
closed my eyes and covered them with my hand, foolishly disturbed by the
realization I didn’t hold his laughter in exclusiveness.
Jamie looked happy. I could see the outline of
his smile, the corners of his mouth turned up in contentment. Had he been that
happy with me, once? Before I filled our lives with insecurities, demands and frailties?
She squeezed his hand – fingers touching, skin
meeting, hearts melting? - and got up, putting on her elegant coat. With a
swish of blonde hair, she kissed his cheek – clearly no amiable kiss demanded
such duration, in my opinion – and with a light caress on his forehead, left
him finally alone.
He looked around, searching for the waitress to
ask for a refill and – of course – spotted me. It was like standing on stage,
two spotlights beaming on us, everything else left in darkness. Jamie glanced
at me and I proudly endured his gaze, asserting that I saw his happiness and
wasn’t shaken at all by it. Liar.
made my way to his table, a slug crawling on a lettuce leaf, ugly but brave. I
seemed to be ken on eating every crumb of my cake of sorrow and then smile,
pretending it was sweet.
“Hello, Jamie.” I greeted him, bracing myself
on the notebook I carried. His hair was somewhat shorter than the last time I
had seen him, a couple of months ago, his uniform impeccable, the tie on his
neck just a bit loose. I used to make his knots and suddenly panicked, fearing
that the blonde girl was a master of turns and twists, able of fixing his heart
as well as his tie.
“Hello, Claire.” Jamie replied, his voice
cautious. “How are ye?”
“Good.” I smiled nervously. “Are you back from
“Aye.” He fidgeted with the mug in front of
him, a soft hesitant smile on his lips. “Just got back from Brazil. It was a
wee furnace there.”
“Ah.” I swallowed hard, struggling to come up
with other pleasantries I could share with him. Do you smile in your sleep when she touches you? “You look good.
“What are ye asking me, Claire?” He avoided my
gaze, his face abruptly serious.
“Nothing.” I replied in a hoarse voice, well
aware that he could spot the tears forming on the corners of my eyes, in the
fountains of my soul. “Just that. You looked happy with her.”
“She’s a good lass.” He glared at me, his eyes
outrageously blue and intent. “She understands what life is for me. I feel that
I can talk to her.”
“As you couldn’t talk to me?” I tried to smile
again and failed miserably, the glass of my face polished and glistening,
reflecting the thousands of small sorrows hidden in the corners of my eyes.
“I told ye all my soul and heart.” Jamie
lowered his eyes, grabbing his hat. “In the end it wasna enough. That is my utmost
regret, Claire - that it wasna enough.”
I stood there, speechless, as he gathered his
things and left. I thought of the bleeders that elude the most capable surgeon,
the cardiac arrest that lasts forever, the hands inside where we are most
private, touching the core of what we are, unable to reach what had been lost.
I slammed my heart at him as he closed the door behind him – “Jamie!” – knowing all too well I had no
one to blame but myself. I had traded all for nothing, convinced it was a
worthy bargain – blind, blind, fool.
I crawled home, shaken to the very marrow of my
bones, oozing love and loss – sticky and queasy with it. In medical school they
had told me how the brain works to protect itself – the clever barrier
surrounding it, the plasticity, the temperature regulation – and yet my brain
seemed decided to finish me, incessantly playing memories of Jamie, smacking me
with my own recklessness. I had no self-preservation left, for I loved him to
the atoms of me.
I had seen him happy without me – there was joy
there to be sure, in knowing him well. But the pain was almost unbearable, no
last redoubt of magical thinking left, where I could hide and pretend we would
find our way back to each other. He was
gone. Pushed away by my own two hands.
I collapsed on the couch, curling into fetal
position, making myself small and smaller. My ears were filled with the sounds
of my own heart and I willed him to stop, to let go of beating, to be still and
let me be.
He kissed my cheek on
our first date. I kissed his lips on the second. Loved all of himself by the
tenth. My heart leapt when I saw him, tall and gallant in his uniform, almost
running to hold me in his arms at the hospital. When he told me flying was his
second favourite thing. When he told me I was first. Red Jamie, my Jamie.
A knock on the door, fast and rhythmed. A
secret code for the lover coming.
I padded to the door, afraid and wanting. Hopeful.
I opened the door and he was standing there,
snowflakes turning into rivers on the brim of his hat. He reached out with his
hand and I took it, already knowing I’d never let go again.
“I was happier with ye.” He whispered in a
husky voice. And I remembered it all, the happiness and love I’d known, waiting
in him as kisses on his lips.
page 287 - early Economian astronomers looked into the inky blue void that was their night sky (because no electric lights) and beheld the majesty around them. You can get an idea of their world and imaginations by looking at some of the constellations they saw and named. Some favourites include: whale descending, jaunty anchor, old timey megaphone on a stick, upside down flower in pot (aka the lamp), wobbly horse and skinny ursa. As mentioned previously, the reindeer is a later addition as a result of the Lapp School’s rise to prominence in the 1950s.
Use this guide as a general assessment for ways to belay a seconding climber from above. Remember, learning about rock climbing online serves as a tool, but in no way are written articles a substitute for hands-on instruction. Failure to follow appropriate safety measures could result in serious injury or death. If just getting started, seek professional climbing courses offered by AMGA-certified guiding services. Be smart, and climb safe.
When arriving at the top of the climb, a leader is faced with multiple options for belaying up his/her follower. The classic method for belaying from above has involved a belay direct from the leader’s harness and redirected through the anchor. But, some argue that this is the “old” way to belay from above, and instead recommend using guide mode on an auto-blocking belay device — such the Black Diamond ATC-Guide and the Petzl Reverso.
In a redirected belay, the belayer clips the rope that leads to their partner into a carabiner or quickdraw attached to the anchor above the waist. The belayer then attaches this rope to the belay device on their harness. In this scenario, the belayer holds part of the weight during a fall and the anchor bears both the belayer and partner’s weight; creating a 2:1 force on the system.
- Quick, easy to set up
- Does not require owning a guide/reverso-style atc
- Can be easier for beginners, familiar with clipping belay device directly to harness
- Places more force on the anchor (2:1)
- If follower falls, belayer can be pushed into anchor; compromising belay
- More difficult to escape the belay
Guide mode belay
When belaying with guide mode, the ATC-Guide or Reverso (NOT a standard ATC) is configured directly onto the anchor. In the event of a fall, the weight is transferred at a 1:1 ratio of force onto the system—which bears only the climber’s weight.
- Applies less force on the anchor (1:1)
- Stress is not on the belayer’s body in the event of a fall
- Can provide more comfort because the system is not directly attached to the belayer
- If belayer drops belay, falls unconscious, etc. the device will auto-block the rope and catch a climber in event of a fall
- It can be easier to escape the belay; belayer is not part of system
- Easier to belay two climbers simultaneously
- Requires owning a guide-ATC device and additional locking carabiner
- Can be uncomfortable to belay at waist level or below (see video below)
- Slower when trading leads, as belayer must re-adjust belay directly to harness
When building your anchor to belay in guide mode, you’ll want to ensure that you have enough distance to comfortably belay your partner. Ideally, your master point will be above waist level. After pulling up the rope from your seconding climber,
1. Clip a locking carabiner into the large metal loop on the device, attach to the master point of your anchor, and lock the gate of the carabiner.
2. Insert a loop of rope into the ATC’s opening; keeping the climber’s end of the rope on top (this essentially pinches/locks the brake strand on bottom in the case of a fall).
3. Take another locking carabiner, and clip the rope loop and the belay device’s cable, and lock the gate shut.
4. Before belaying, tug on the climber’s rope to ensure you have positioned the rope correctly. You should feel the auto-locking capability.
5. To begin belaying, feed rope up through the device with one and while simultaneously pulling down with your braking hand. In the event of a fall, the device will lock.
If seeking to adjust the anchor higher to provide for better positioning in guide mode, check out this video:
Final safety checks before belaying
Before belaying your partner in a multi-pitch situation, always remember that no one is there to double check other than you. This means you must do your due diligence of ensuring your and your partner’s safety! Before you belay from above, always ask yourself …
1. Am I secured by at least two solid points on the anchor?
2. Have I locked all locking carabiners in the belay system?
3. Is the rope fed into my belay device in the correct position?
Watch a step-by-step look at a multi-pitch, including how to swap leads after the belay in this video.
While you can elect to belay from above using a redirected belay, many climbers consider the guide mode functionality as the superior choice when belaying from above. The primary safety benefits include that it:
- Applies less force on the anchor (1:1)
- Auto-blocks the rope in the event of a climber falling
- Is an easier system if needing to escape the belay