Opinion & Editorial

Blum: We’re on a mountain we didn’t ask to climb

The legendary Hayward Field’s debut was one of the more anticipated aspects of the USA Olympic Track & Field Trials. The International Olympic Committee announced Tuesday that the Tokyo Games would be rescheduled for 2021. Bradley Cook/Flashbox Studio

My wife, Nancy, grew up climbing mountains in Washington State. We met at The Evergreen State College, where she studied Outdoor Education with Willi Unsoeld. Willi was an Oregon boy who, with Tom Hornbein, made the first ascent of the West Ridge of Mount Everest in 1963. The 1963 Expedition delivered Jim Whittaker, another northwest native son and first American atop the peak shortly before Unsoeld and Hornbein scaled the mountain from the other side.
As a professor, Willi inspired people with his stories, humor and wisdom. Equal parts philosopher (Ph.D. in philosophy) and mountaineer, he was Evergreen’s most compelling figure. He died in 1979 in an avalanche on Mt. Rainier alongside one of his students, while leading a student climb. Every 10 years, Nancy’s schoolmates (and spouses) gather for a multi-day reunion where we share and make memories. Willi still lives in the hearts and minds of his students and family, and reminds me that if you live long enough, certain pieces of wisdom resonate. How we respond to change strengthens us.
One of Willi’s sayings was: ”The downhill of the spirit is worse than the uphill of the mountain.”
Think about it.
Three weeks ago, writing ”Countdown to The Trials” was the most enjoyable assignment of my life – until the Coronavirus changed our lives. Now, the IOC has announced The Summer Games will be pushed to 2021, as will The Trials here in the southern Willamette Valley.
Still, it might be a while before I write about track and field again, so I want to share something I’ve learned from it.
The most exceptional athletes never focus on outcomes because you cannot control outcomes. Instead, they focus on what they can control: Preparation and effort.
We have work to do and there is no time to let our spirits fall. We have to keep others and ourselves safe.
In the coming weeks and months, you can eat right, get enough sleep, drink water, be kind to the people around you, fix something in your home, get some exercise and don’t forget to appreciate the beautiful gifts of nature around us. Don’t waste one iota of energy worrying about ”when it will end.” Focus on what you can control. You have an endless reservoir of strength.
We are on a mountain we didn’t ask to climb. Take one step, and then another, and then another. Embrace the uphill of the mountain as it is far better than the downhill of the spirit.
– Joey Blum



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