I’ve been reading a book called The Ledge by Jim Davidson and Kevin Vaughn. In 1992, Davidson and his friend and climbing partner, Mike Price, were climbing Mt. Rainer when they fell into an 80-foot crevasse. Price died as a result of the fall. Davidson survived and returned to climbing and now is a professional speaker.
I read this book for one of my book clubs that is attended by what some might call excessively active women. We all run, ride, race or do something along those lines. I’m new to the club and thrilled to be a part of it because they are not a typical club. The vast majority of the club had read the book, which makes sense given we are all endurance athletes who share a distaste for the term DNF – did not finish. But they were also quite vocal and lively. I’m a bit of a wallflower, so time around vocal and lively women will do me some good.
Since I left the meeting, I’ve been thinking about one issue we discussed. Some of the women in the group were troubled by Davidson’s building a speaking career around his friend’s death. They were interested in the story, but did not appreciate the book’s shift from what happened to the portion that felt to them as though Davidson was saying, “I’ve since become a professional speaker, and let me tell you what I teach.” I understand their view, but I don’t share it. I see value in Davidson using this experience that left his friend dead to teach and speak.
I read memoir – and have for as long as I can remember – because I think we learn from each other. I will likely never go ice climbing, and I may never use the technical skills Davidson describes in this book, but I will remember and appreciate his discussion of how climbing brings out his best and how he had to peak in those initial moments down in the crevasse to save his own life. I do agree with the women in my club that the last portion of the book, in particular the epilogue, could have been written in a more subtle manner, but I believe the telling and re-telling of Davidson’s story – what happened, what he learned, and how he has been able to use that experience to learn about himself and to help others learn potentially life-saving skills, including coping skills – has value.
I’ve learned some useful things myself just reading the book. When faced with a challenge, I hope I will recognize whatever situation I am in as my crevasse of sorts. I hope I will recognize that my situation is not nearly so dire as what Davidson faced and take some comfort in that. I hope I will ask myself some questions. What are my skills? What are my tools? What is the right next step to take? I hope that I will act, not half-heartedly, but fully invested in whatever I’m doing. And I hope I will keep in my mind and on my heart the people I met along the way who helped me nurture the truest form of myself.
I recommend the book. And given the opportunity, I would eagerly go hear Davidson speak. I think I have more to learn from him.