Words by Karly Siroky, Columnist
Photos by Karly Siroky and The Siroky Family
“And this—this is your room,” he said. I stepped through the door, and my mouth fell agape. Hanging above the bed was a panorama of Mt Rainier; next to the closet, the North Cascades; and on the far wall, a portrait of Mont Blanc, reflected in a glassy alpine lake.
It was the Mountain Room.
Here I would stay for five weeks, keeping watch over the property while its owners ventured forth to explore someone else’s backyard.
Caretaking started as a favor, grew into a hobby and evolved into a profession. I’ve house sat off-the-grid cabins, working farms, and island mansions. I’ve gathered eggs, milked goats and turned the compost. I’ll check your mail, water your plants, and even tend your fermented pets.
This particular home was crafted by and for nature lovers. Landscape photography painted the walls, bird feeders dangled from the eaves, and the extra bedroom—normally reserved for kids—was packed with enough outdoor toys to open a used gear store.
As I oriented myself to sprinkler heads and utensil drawers, I adapted to my body’s physical location.
You are here: Wenatchee, Washington.
It takes me awhile to adjust to each new locale.
Steep and rocky, the hillside was dotted by tufts of wheatgrass, punctuated by sunshine-yellow balsam root and creamy daffodil, all set against a silvery blanket of sagebrush. Pillars of sandy igneous rock formed a formidable cliffside, like a frontline of chess pawns guarding its king.
People often wonder why mountaineers feel so drawn to stand on that highest point. Well, it takes one to know one, and I can tell you—simply because it is there.
I decided to climb it that day. No time to waste.
Pulling a pair of jeans over my leggings, I added an extra pair of socks (for anti-friction), laced my hiking boots tightly, and grabbed a pair of trekking poles. I could’ve cared less about rule number one: cotton is rotten. Tossing my keys in my trail shoes, I left the car unlocked.
The key with these sort of impulses is to go fast. This is not the time for those kind of cares. Take too long to prep, do too much research and you may lose your motivation—or worse, psych yourself out.
“Ready?” I asked my faithful companion. And off we went.
To chart your own path up a mountain is a respectable skill—one that I do not possess in any great quantity, yet am determined to learn.
As I huffed up the foothills, I imagined climbing this mountain 35 ways in 35 days—returning to it over and over till I’d determined the most efficient route.
I summoned what off-piste fundamentals I could remember: stay high, move with opposing hands and feet, take your rest steps, and remember to watch for rockfall.
I worked the problem, sticking with my plan of heading straight up till I reached the sloughy talus, veering left, then gently sloping right toward the summit—I hoped it wasn’t a false one.
Gradually, I recognized game trails—cloven footsteps dotted with droppings, signs I was on the right track, or at least the one most climbers of this mountain had signed off on. Hawks soared the updrafts, showing off the altitude gain which would take me half the morning.
I laughed to myself, remembering how I’d practiced this movement mere days ago in an online barre class, only “mountain climbers” are much, much better when they’re the real thing.
Before I knew it, we crested the horizon, and luckily were rewarded with a mellow plateau. No more summits! Arcing around the edge on an overgrown road, we slowed at a small promontory flecked with lichen. Resting my poles like a trusted rifle, I clambered up, sitting cross-legged right there, palms facing upward, eyelids drawing to a close.
I sank in. Scanning my body, I felt every ache, pain and sensation. Sight, sound, touch, taste smell. I tapped into my breath. I placed one hand on my heart, and the other on my sternum.
I asked the universe for guidance, setting an intention for my time in this space.
It spoke to me with these words: reflection, clarity, presence.
It is a constant reorientation—to your surroundings, and thus to yourself. An opportunity to examine where you are, and how you feel about that.
The definition of introspection.
I opened my eyes, and the valley materialized in a bluish filter. Awareness washed over me. A herd of whitetail deer alerted themselves to my presence, and silently bounded the other way.
Yes—listen to your body. And yet, sometimes you just have to ignore the blisters, and go for it anyway. They will heal. Sometimes you must push yourself. The reward is worth it.
It is important to do this—to get lost, get carried away, to shirk responsibility. It’s what Piglet and friends, my favorite spiritual teachers, would classify as a Very Important Thing to Do.
I returned exhausted, not from the physical strain, but from the mental contortions I’d put myself through subconsciously along the way.
I found myself smiling the rest of the day.
Now normally, I like to keep my work and rest spaces separate. Only this time, by any measure, the optimal stand-up workstation was right there at that bedroom window. So I sipped black tea while gazing upward, and the only thing I thought about was which route I would try next.
The day before the homeowners departed, he asked: “So, what’re you up to tomorrow?”
“Work,” I replied. “And climbing that mountain.”
Karly Siroky is the founder of Karma, a brand incubator and basecamp for B-corps, entrepreneurs and visionary companies committed to doing good. She and her women-led team build, guide and launch brands for clients who place people and planet over profit. Karly also serves as Lucia's design advisor. Her column offers a heartfelt look into life as an entrepreneur and navigator of the creative wilderness.